In what is seen as a last-ditch attempt to avoid what appears to be an impending disaster at this Friday’s Eurogroup in Malta, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos have, according to a senior government official, embarked on a frantic campaign aimed in all directions.
Their efforts come after yet another rift between Athens and the International Monetary Fund over labor and pension reforms, which undermined an initial agreement last week in Brussels that would have allowed the return of European and IMF heads to Athens for review talks before the Malta meeting.
According to reports, Athens had agreed to pension cuts, but not on their timing. The government has placed the blame squarely on the IMF for seeking to renegotiate labor reform, and claims that an agreement, even on a technical level, is being undermined by the Washington-based organization’s demands.
Greece had agreed to some concessions on labor reforms, which was a key demand of the IMF, but, according to Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, “they were asking for more.”
The failure to clinch a deal to conclude the second review of the country’s third bailout – or at least a staff-level agreement – within the time frame the government had set is forcing it to resort once again to so-called “political negotiations,” whereby it hopes that an agreement at a political level with the political leadership of its European creditors will help overcome the snags in the negotiations.
Yet despite the evidence that Friday’s Eurogroup will lead nowhere, the government on Monday lashed out at the “scenarios of doom that have absolutely nothing to do with reality,” insisting a technical agreement is still possible by Friday.
Given the current climate, Wednesday's visit by European Council President Donald Tusk takes on even more significance. Tusk will meet with Tsipras and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos. That visit will be followed on Friday by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.