Troika technical staff due back in Athens on Monday

Troika technical staff due back in Athens on Monday

Technical teams representing Greece’s international creditors are expected to return to Athens on Monday for talks on outstanding reforms that will pave the way for the return of mission chiefs next month ahead of the next bailout review.

According to sources, bailout monitors are concerned about four key areas, in addition to a batch of 95 so-called prior actions that Greek authorities must adopt by the year’s end.

Those areas are labor reforms, a dragging overhaul of the civil service, taxation and closed professions.

Foreign auditors are reportedly unhappy about a labor reform bill pushed into law last week that is seen as bolstering rather than curbing workers’ rights. Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos conceded that the bill had prompted some objections.

There are also concerns about reforms to the civil service, specifically as relates to employees on short-term contracts.

Foreign auditors have repeatedly pressed Greek authorities to reduce the number of workers on short-term contracts.

Instead the number of contract workers has increased to 52,000 from 47,000. A bill passed in the summer introducing a range of benefits for certain categories of local authority workers is also said to have fueled irritation.

Taxation is another sensitive subject. Foreign officials are said to be annoyed by the introduction of certain tax breaks, notably the reduction of value-added tax on agricultural products and services from 24 percent to 13 percent.

Finally, the area of closed professions remains a sticking point. Foreign auditors are said to be concerned about restrictions protecting pharmacists and engineers.