By Eleni Varvitsioti
The first test for new Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis will be whether he will keep his promises made at the previous Eurogroup – the first he attended as Yiannis Stournaras’s successor – and report the implementation of the six prior actions required for the next bailout sub-tranche of 1 billion euros at the July 7 Eurogroup meet.
According to a European official, speaking after Monday’s Euro Working Group meeting, all six prior actions will be implemented by this Friday, so that the eurozone finance ministers will issue their approval next Monday for the release of the 1-billion-euro payment to Greece. Athens hopes to have everything in place by tomorrow night in a bid to prevent the image of the new finance minister from being tarnished.
There are two issues still pending for the completion of the actions required. The first is the adjustment of pharmacists’ profit margins. The obstacle is of a technical nature, regarding how the reduction to the pharmacists’ profit rate will apply. The reduction itself is not under negotiation, but its formula has not yet been determined, says an official familiar with the negotiations with the country’s creditors.
The proposals being examined by the Greek side involve an average reduction in the profit margin from 19 percent to 17.5 percent. The country’s creditors want to have it cut to 15 percent, but the Greek side is not prepared to go that low. It is certain that negotiations on a technical level will continue up to the last minute.
The other outstanding issue concerns open-air markets. Consultation is continuing on the ministerial decision that Development Minister Nikos Dendias will have to issue. The decision concerns how professional vendors of products such as fruit and vegetables will be distinguished from the actual producers who also sell their produce at the markets. The decision will have to apply from August 15, but stall holders have already asked for the decision’s application to be postponed until October. This is a scenario that has not yet been ruled out.