BUSINESS

Greece off Eurogroup’s main agenda

ELENI VARVITSIOTIS

TAGS: Finance

Greece will not have any major part in Monday’s Eurogroup meeting. According to a European official who informed reporters in Brussels on Friday, neither the Greek budget nor the first enhanced surveillance report will generate any significant discussions among the eurozone finance ministers.

“We do not anticipate a discussion on the Greek budget, nor a strong debate over the first report on the enhanced surveillance,” he said; asked whether the Eurogroup will examine any delays in privatizations in Greece, the response was again negative.

The same official explained that the next report, whose drafting will begin at the start of 2019, will be the most important, as it will determine whether the central banks of the eurozone will forward their profits from Greek state bond holdings to Athens. “That is where we will see whether reforms are continuing in Greece. That will be assessed in February,” he noted.

The next report will show whether Greece has completed the reforms required for the disbursement of the profits from the securities and markets program (SMP) and the agreement on net financial assets (ANFA). Such a disbursement can only happen with the approval of the eurozone parliaments that typically have a vote on it, including Germany’s.

The fact that none of the 16 reforms the government must complete by year-end has been implemented is creating worries in some eurozone capitals, though not enough to provoke a discussion at Monday’s Eurogroup; the focus will instead be on Italy and its budget. The attention of the creditors will return to Greece again in February, for the disbursement of about 700 million euros due.

The Greek budget will not form part of Monday’s talks because it is one of the drafts already approved by the European Commission as compatible with eurozone rules.

Besides reforms, in their next monitoring, European officials are expected to pay close attention to how much the minimum salary is increased: If that is greater than what the economic conditions allow for and affects the growth rate, then it will be viewed as a considerable backtracking move; another key factor will be the progress in the privatization of the old Athens airport plot at Elliniko on the capital’s southern coast

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