Stournaras seeks progress in Tuesday’s talks with troika ahead of Eurogroup summit

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is to resume tough negotiations with troika envoys on Tuesday, amid concerns that the two sides remain far from an agreement on key issues ahead of a eurozone finance ministers summit on Thursday and the scheduled submission in Parliament next week of Greece’s 2014 budget.

Stournaras is to have two meetings with troika chiefs on Tuesday – one at noon that is to involve Bank of Greece officials and is to focus on plans to lift a ban on foreclosures and a second meeting in the afternoon that is to address a dispute between the two sides over the country’s budget gap for next year.

Ministry officials are keen to achieve some kind of rapprochement to avoid tensions at the Eurogroup and to ensure that troika envoys, who are to accompany Stournaras to Brussels, will return to Athens after the summit.

But a senior ministry official expressed concern about delays in the talks after troika envoys postponed scheduled meetings with Greek officials.

“We can be patient too,” he said, adding however that Greece was keen to finish quickly as the release of the next tranche of rescue funding – a sum of 1 billion euros – is in the balance. The same official suggested that the holdup could be due to a difference of opinion between the troika officials.

The two sides are believed to remain far apart on the matter of Greece’s fiscal gap for this year, which Athens puts at no more than 700 million euros and the troika estimates at over 2 billion.

According to sources, the International Monetary Fund’s envoy, Poul Thomsen, has said he will return to Athens after the Eurogroup if there is scope for a compromise on the fiscal gap to be reached by the end of next week. Otherwise, he will return to Washington and come back to Athens in December.

Troika sources appear to believe that an agreement on the fiscal gap is not likely until December and that Greece will not dominate the agenda at the Eurogroup.

Troika officials requested additional data from the government and are Tuesday expected to give their first assessment of Greece’s proposals for covering the budget gap by curbing tax and social security evasion, for an overhaul of state defense firms and for a unified property tax.

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