After three meetings in five days across two continents, the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund have concluded that the heads of the creditors’ representatives will return to Athens soon to resume negotiations with the government.
Sources say that the chief representatives are likely to fly back to Greece after Monday’s Eurogroup meeting, possibly on Tuesday, although no one would produce any details on Thursday about when exactly that will happen.
In terms of the essence of the talks, the creditors have not yet agreed on a common position towards the Greek government. The IMF insists on the tough line drawn last month by its European chief, Poul Thomsen, who asked for new measures worth 7.5-9 billion euros by 2018 along with pension cuts. At the same time, the eurozone, including Berlin, is sending signals suggesting more flexibility in the way the social security overhaul will be implemented, while on the fiscal front it estimates that some 3.3 billion euros in measures will be required by 2018.
After the creditors’ dinner on Wednesday in Brussels, officials said there progress had been made but pointed to Monday’s Eurogroup for the confirmation of the mission’s return to Athens. Officials in the know told Kathimerini that differences among the creditors remain, particularly over how the review issues would be managed. However, eurozone and IMF officials stressed in formal as well as informal terms that they were optimistic the mission chiefs would be returning soon.
The IMF insisted on Thursday, through spokesman Gerry Rice, on the estimate for 9 billion euros of measures required by 2018, adding that “the IMF is not asking for any additional measures to those agreed in the summer.”
Rice also noted that “the needed reforms would be less demanding if there was more debt relief on offer from Greece’s European partners.” He made it clear, however, that the IMF will not be taking part in this debate, which ought to take place between Greek and eurozone authorities.