EWG gives the nod for loan tranche

The Euro Working Group of eurozone finance ministry officials have approved the disbursement of the next bailout loan tranche to Athens, sources from Athens and Brussels confirmed on Friday, although the disbursement itself will not take place before the Eurogroup meeting next Thursday.

The 3.3-billion-euro installment received the green light from senior eurozone finance ministry officials who met informally in Rome over the last couple of days following a favorable recommendation by the representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – known collectively as the troika – according to two Finance Ministry officials in Athens.

The payment was contingent on Greece achieving benchmarks related to anti-corruption efforts, household debt and electricity market reforms. “The ERT shutdown certainly helped,” one of the two officials told Reuters.

As one condition of the bailout, Greece has promised to lay off 4,000 public sector workers by the end of the year, with half to be dismissed by the end of September.

Although the original plan had been for the release of the tranche on Monday, this has been postponed until Thursday at the earliest due to a technical reason, according to sources from Brussels. The decision has nothing to do with political developments in Athens or the state broadcaster’s shutdown, the same sources stated, but concerns the need for the German parliament’s responsible committee to approve the installment, which is likely to happen on Wednesday.

The Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers is expected to confirm that on Thursday, given that the council has already given its political backing to the disbursement of the funds to Greece, which will take the total amount of loans issued to 210 billion euros.

Attention now turns to the ongoing monitoring process. The heads of the troika have returned to Athens from Rome and are due to visit the Finance Ministry on Saturday. The main issues on the table will be combating tax evasion and the action the government has to take to restructure its tax collection mechanism.

The top representatives of the country’s creditors are scheduled to leave Athens next Friday.