BUSINESS

Tough issues on Eurogroup agenda

ELENI VARVITSIOTIS

TAGS: Finance

Thorny issues such as the legal travails of former statistical authority chief Andreas Georgiou and the problems between Athens and Eldorado Gold regarding the Halkidiki mines will be on the agenda of the first Eurogroup meeting of the new season, which takes place on Friday at Tallinn in Estonia.

A leading eurozone official told reporters on Wednesday that the objective is for the third bailout review to be completed before the end of the year. This is a feasible target, he argued, as most of the 95 prior actions that must be implemented were agreed in the past. Some of those milestones concern the liberalization of the energy market, the strategy on bad loans and the 2018 budget.

Among the key issues to be discussed in the third review are public sector reform and civil servant issues, while “there is also the open issue of the privatizations fund and the privatizations themselves, which are just a few,” the same official explained.

On the possible need for extra fiscal measures for 2018, the eurozone official said it is too early for such a debate; the fiscal course of Greece in 2018 will depend on the implementation of this year’s budget, and he noted that “the income tax people pay in Greece is not doing very well, while other taxes have fared better.”

He also made special reference to the Eldorado Gold affair, saying the issue will be discussed at the Eurogroup in the context of “what should be avoided” regarding investments in Greece.

The same official made it clear that if Greece does not manage to have the remaining 800 million euros from the second review disbursed by the end of the year, the money will return to the program’s fund and will no longer be available for disbursement. For Greece to receive that amount it will have to prove it has finished paying off the state’s expired debts to the private sector before the end of next month.

The eurozone finance ministers will also discuss the Georgiou matter. According to the same official, the statistical data that Georgiou is accused in Greece of tampering with have been ratified by Eurostat and the International Monetary Fund, and “any accusation that a deficit blow-up was meant to take Greece into a program is paranoid.”

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