NEWS

PM in last ditch bid to turn tide

COSTIS P. PAPADIOCHOS

TAGS: Politics

The government is seeking to limit the damage from a stern report issued last week by Greece’s international creditors over its lagging reform program.

The second enhanced surveillance report, which put a dent in the government’s narrative that the country is back on track, prompted the European Commission to admonish Athens for repeatedly trying to move “below the radar” in order to avoid implementing agreed policies – with the case of public sector hirings being a leading example.

It also questioned the Labor Ministry’s plan for the settlement of social security debts in 120 installments – seen as the government’s last hand in a bid to revive its flagging popularity in public opinion polls ahead of national elections later this year. Its other major trump card is the issuing of a 10-year bond which, it hopes, will signal that the country is indeed regaining the confidence of international markets.

The creditors’ report also appears to have put a dent in the image that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has tried to cultivate, namely that of reliable and powerful player on the international scene, with an upper hand in this area over New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

With this in mind, Tsipras is expected to capitalize on the signing of the agreement between Greece, Israel and Cyprus for the construction of the East Med pipeline, which will transfer natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe via Greece and Cyprus.

According to reports, the deal will be signed by Tsipras, his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades within the month.

The pipeline project was further boosted last week by the announcement of a large gas find in Cyprus.

With its image at stake and the disbursal of almost a billion euros hanging in the balance at the March 11 Eurogroup, the last thing the government wants is to clash with its EU partners.

Bearing this in mind, the most likely scenario is that the government will implement most of the prior actions it agreed to last summer ahead of the meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

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