Athens in push to restart stalled talks

Athens in push to restart stalled talks

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos has launched an effort to unfreeze talks on the Greek bailout review ahead of Thursday’s Euro Working Group – which will determine when and under what conditions the mission chiefs of the country’s creditors can return to Athens – as the target of concluding the review within January appears to be increasingly out of reach.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told Skai TV on Monday that the government and its creditors would have “a clearer picture” of where negotiations stand at the January 26 Eurogroup.

Tsakalotos is due in Paris on Wednesday, where he will meet with his French counterpart Michel Sapin, and will then travel to Brussels to see European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici and discuss the conclusion of the second review.

Although the aim of the meetings is to speed up the return of the creditors’ chief representatives to Athens, the officials Tsakalotos will be talking to are Greece’s strongest allies in the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers so it is unlikely those meetings will yield any fruit.

“We do not have any new developments,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said on Monday in reference to statements last week suggesting that while Brussels remains committed to the completion of the review, this is not just up to the Commission exclusively.

At the Euro Working Group on Thursday,Eurozone finance ministry officials will be discussing the progress of negotiations with Athens and also the targets that need to be set for talks to resume. The aim is for enough progress to be made so negotiations can move forward before the Eurogroup meeting of January 26.

The pressure is high as negotiations practically came to a standstill in mid-December when the creditors’ mission chiefs left Athens.

Eurozone officials now estimate that it will be virtually impossible to have an agreement in place for the completion of the bailout review by the end of the month and the upcoming Eurogroup, given that the distance separating the Greek government and its creditors, as well as the eurozone institutions and the International Monetary Fund, remains quite significant.

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