NEWS

Greece and lenders head back to technical talks

Technical work aimed at securing a basis for an agreement between Greece and its lenders is expected to begin in Athens and Brussels on Monday ahead of a Eurogroup meeting on April 24.

Kathimerini understands that the deliberations will resume after discussions during Wednesday’s Euro Working Group ended with an agreement that Athens should have a comprehensive proposal to make within six working days. The reform proposals will have to cover fiscal, pension, labor and privatization issues, according to creditors.

Sources said that during Wednesday’s meeting Greece’s representative, Finance Ministry general secretary Nikos Theocharakis, told his counterparts that the government might not have enough cash beyond April 24. However, lenders do not appear convinced by this as they think Athens is trying to use its lack of liquidity as a way of pressuring the institutions into agreeing to disburse some of the 7.2 billion euros remaining in bailout funds.

Nevertheless, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis appears certain that that a consensus will be reached soon. “I am very confident,” he told Bloomberg TV on Thursday. “The negotiations are proceeding quite well. It is in our mutual interest to strike a deal by the 24th, and I’m sure we will.”

In Paris, where he was speaking at an economics conference, Varoufakis suggested that the coalition is ready to compromise but that it would not give in on everything.

“We wouldn’t be fit for the purpose if we were not prepared to take the political costs which are necessary to stabilize Greece and lead it to growth,” he said. “But let me be very precise on this, we are prepared to make all sorts of compromises, we are not prepared to be compromised.”

Varoufakis was speaking after it had been confirmed that Athens had paid 448 million euros to the International Monetary Fund on time. Greece has another 747 million euros to pay the Washington-based organization on May 12, which will be a further drain on its limited liquidity.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde admitted that deliberations between Greece and the institutions had been “difficult on almost a daily basis” and said it is vital that constructive steps are made now to ensure “Greece has full sovereignty over its economic fate.”

“I think what really matters now is for Greece and the three institutions to get on with the work so we can identify together the measures that will take Greece out of the very bad economic situation it could be in if those measures are not taken,” said the former French finance minister.

Lagarde added that a failure to reach an agreement and a potential default and euro exit for Greece would be much worse for the Greeks than the rest of the eurozone.

“It would be a terrible situation for the Greek people,” she told CNBC. “Equally, I think that the firewalls, the banking union, the strengthened fiscal union have put the eurozone in a much better and stronger position than were it was four years ago.”

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