Break in talks between Greece and troika to delay bailout tranche

Troika representatives are due to leave Athens on Thursday with no final agreement having been reached with the coalition on a range of structural reforms but with the Greek side insisting that the pause in the talks will not lead to complications in the disbursal of its next loan tranche from the eurozone and International Monetary Fund.

Talks between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and officials from the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank lasted for a couple of hours on Wednesday night but there no conclusion was reached on matters including the reduction of civil servant numbers and a payment plan for firms and individuals who owe social security contributions.

Despite the apparent impasse in the discussions, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras insisted that the two sides were edging toward a deal and that Greece’s next loan tranche of 2.8 billion euros was not in danger.

“There has been significant progress in the talks with the troika,” Stournaras told journalists after leaving the talks at the Maximos Mansion, in which he also took part.

“The negotiations will continue when the troika representatives return. There is no issue with the loan tranche,” he added.

The finance minister indicated that the troika team would return to Athens at the end of the month or at the beginning of April, which means that Greece will not receive its bailout installment this month, as had been originally planned.

Stournaras said that just “technical issues” remained to be resolved between the two sides but the indications were that there are still substantial differences on a range of concerns.

The minister did not specify which matters are still the subject of negotiations but over the past few days negotiations focused on civil service firings, the continuation of the emergency property tax introduced in 2011 and how to recover unpaid taxes and social security contributions.

Another issue being debated by the two sides is the possibility of bank customers being given more favorable terms to repay their loans and mortgages. Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis indicated there was little progress on this issue as well.

“There is nothing new on the loans issue to come out of tonight’s meeting,” he said.

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