Ahead of the return of the chief representatives of the country’s creditors to Athens on Saturday, a conference call on Friday between the senior eurozone finance ministers taking part in the Euro Working Group highlighted that significant differences remain between the Greek government and the lenders and that there is much work left to do on a series of reforms.
The EWG made it clear there will be no disbursement of any bailout money unless the International Monetary Fund agrees to participate in the Greek program. It added that for the discussion on lightening Greece’s debt to restart, the country will have to have taken a series of measures and to show a strong determination for their implementation.
At the same time, the IMF is sticking to its guns, as it stressed that the target for a primary budget surplus equal to 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product in 2018 will not be achieved without any measures on top of those worth 3 percent of GDP that the eurozone has demanded or a generous lightening of the state debt – a position that makes the negotiations that much more difficult.
A European official said that Friday’s conference call stressed that while there has been progress in the talks regarding the reform of the tax system, the Greek side has a significant distance to cover on the other reforms before a deal can be reached. On the pension reform, or instance, the same official commented “we are not there yet.” Hard work is also required for the remaining revenues required, amounting to 1 percent of GDP (that may come from energy taxation, vehicle levies etc).
The EWG called on the Greek side as well as the creditors to move as fast as possible in the coming days when the talks take place in Athens: “Reforms that should have taken place since August are still pending implementation,” a European official told Kathimerini, adding that “while there was a sense of urgency in the teleconference, the atmosphere was definitely not dramatic.”