The head of the European Commission's mission to Athens, Declan Costello.
The government has a mountain to climb to complete the prior actions required for a successful conclusion to this and next month’s inspection by the country’s creditors. The European Commission’s list of pending actions ahead of the January 21 start of the creditor representatives’ visit to Athens is strongly reminiscent of the bailout period.
Besides the pending actions, the head of the Commission’s mission to Athens, Declan Costello, said in a letter to the government at the start of the year that government will need to provide answers to a number of issues in the second post-bailout assessment of Greece’s progress. These include the handouts that have been promised, the extension of the favorable value-added tax status of five eastern Aegean islands and the possible cost of judicial decisions against previous pension cuts.
The creditors also intend to ask the government to present specific proposals regarding the protection of debtors’ main residence, rejecting a further extension to the so-called Katseli Law beyond end-February.
The Commission’s list, which has been seen by Kathimerini, details 46 pending issues that are partial obligations toward the 16 prior actions required for the upcoming assessment.
Regarding one of these in particular – the payment to its rightful recipients of 900 million euros from the European Stability Mechanism tranche destined for the payoff of overdue arrears up to end-2018 – Brussels notes that this could jeopardize the return to Athens of profits the European Central Bank and national central banks in the eurozone reaped from Greek bonds (SMPs and ANFAs). This is a tranche of some 644 million euros in a first installment for easing Greece’s national debt, decided last summer, provided that Greece meets its post-bailout obligations.
Sources say that the creditors are giving Athens until February 15 to settle pending issues such as the privatization of Egnatia Odos highway, the reduction of the dividend tax and the abolition of the levy on corporate bonds, the activation of the new penal code, the conclusion of the sale of lignite power plants, etc. If all goes according to plan, then the creditors will draft a favorable report on February 27, so that the March 11 Eurogroup can approve the disbursement of the tranche.