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Gov't strives for a deal with troika amid persisting rifts

Marathon talks between government officials and troika envoys over the weekend made progress in some areas but the two sides remained far from an agreement, sources indicated on Monday, stressing however that the goal remained to reach a deal before next Monday’s Eurogroup summit.

“It’s a tough situation,” a senior government official told Kathimerini on Monday following talks that began on Sunday at 8 p.m. and finished in the early hours of Clean Monday. “We’ve still got a long road ahead,” the official said, adding that all technical-level proposals by the Greek side had been exhausted and it was time “for a political decision.”

The most serious obstacle to a deal remains Greece’s progress with structural reforms, one government source said, noting that troika envoys were pressing for the enforcement of virtually all the proposals set out in a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), known as “the Toolkit.” Greek commitments to implementing 80 percent of the proposals, which are aimed at lifting barriers to competition, have not satisfied the troika, according to sources who said the auditors are insisting on measures aimed at extending the shelf life of fresh milk and allowing non-prescription medicines to be sold in supermarkets.

On the up side, government officials said the two sides had agreed that there is no fiscal gap for 2014, meaning no more austerity measures will be necessary.

Talks are continuing between the government and foreign auditors on the size of last year’s primary surplus and on the proportion of this surplus to be distributed to vulnerable social groups. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has pledged that 70 percent of the surplus – which the government puts at around 1.5 billion euros – will go to low-income pensioners and members of the armed forces and the police who have seen their wages slashed. But the troika allegedly wants some of the surplus to be set aside in case leaked court rulings ordering the reversal of troika-mandated cuts are confirmed.

On Tuesday troika envoys are to meet Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and later in the week with Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis.

ekathimerini.com , Monday March 3, 2014 (18:24)  
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