Commission offers praise and concern

The European Commission report on the Greek economy published on Friday in Brussels praised Athens’s progress in its streamlining program and matches the government’s expectations of a return to the financial markets next year. However, there is some concern regarding the privatizations program.

Unlike the draft report leaked earlier this week, the actual report retains the target of revenues from privatizations at 2.6 billion euros, but as a senior European Union official told reporters in Brussels after presenting the report, delays may cause Athens to miss this target. “We are concerned that there could be delays,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “There are issues of state aid that are complicating the asset sales,” he added.

High-level EU officials who are involved in the Greek program said yesterday that the fiscal adjustment Athens has achieved along with structural interventions such as the liberalization of the labor market constitute impressive feats that have been recognized internationally, which should allow Greece to borrow from the markets again in 2014.

Nevertheless, full disengagement from the stability mechanism will take a long time, depending to a great extent on the decisions the eurozone makes in terms of lightening Greece’s debt.

The report forecasts a zero primary deficit, in which case Greece would not be able to ask for its debt to be restructured in accordance with last November’s Eurogroup decision.

The next inspection on Greece’s progress is scheduled for early June, when the creditors’ representatives arrive in Athens. The prior actions required for the disbursement of the next bailout installments concern the liberalization of the energy market and the voting on bills concerning overindebted households and combating corruption.

The creditors further expect to see a list of the 12,500 civil servants who will enter the labor mobility scheme. They are also prepared to discuss the possible reduction of value-added tax on food service, currently at 23 percent, although Kathimerini has also heard reservations from others as to whether any surplus revenue that may appear should go toward making that possible or be spent on a program for the return of young people to the labor market.