Gov’t faces challenges on various fronts in January

TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy, Economy

The next few weeks are set to be demanding for the government, which needs to legislate outstanding economic reforms in time for a summit of eurozone finance ministers on January 22 and take the heat from the resumption of property foreclosures, while contentious talks aimed at solving a longstanding name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) get under way. 

Government officials are scrambling to finalize a multi-bill bundling together the outstanding prior actions that Greece must enact as part of its third international bailout, with the legislation expected to be submitted in Parliament early next week. 

Foreclosures on overindebted properties are to resume, likely creating another headache for the leftist-led coalition, as SYRIZA had railed against auctions while in opposition. Some within the party continue to voice their objections to the actions, while several former members have joined anti-austerity protests at Greek courthouses to prevent them from proceeding. 

The other major looming challenge is the latest United Nations-mediated initiative to solve a decades-old disagreement between Greece and FYROM over the latter’s official name. 

UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz is to meet with negotiators from Greece and FYROM on January 19 in New York as part of the push to resolve the spat.

According to sources, both sides are expecting Nimetz to chart a specific course for the negotiations. Athens is reportedly keen to expedite talks so that the issue is resolved by summer.

There had been concerns that a rift in the coalition over the issue might undermine Greece’s position in negotiations.

Panos Kammenos, the leader of the junior partner in the coalition, Independent Greeks (ANEL), made it clear last month that he will not back a solution including the name “Macedonia,” reflecting longstanding concerns that such a move that could imply territorial aspirations to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia.

Government officials have indicated, however, that ANEL’s stance could shift over the course of negotiations.

The positive intentions of both Athens and Skopje ahead of the talks was confirmed by the recent contacts between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his counterpart, Zoran Zaev.