Distance separating Greece and troika getting smaller, says Stournaras

Though it was not evident in comments made by officials from each side, the Greek government and the troika appeared a little closer on Tuesday to agreeing the size of Greece’s fiscal gap for 2014.

Finance Ministry sources told Kathimerini that the troika, which until this week was suggesting the shortfall could be as large as 2.9 billion euros, had accepted that the gap might actually be 1.5 billion euros. This came after Greece’s lenders took on board Athens’s position regarding projected tax revenues for next year.

Nevertheless, the troika’s latest figure is still 1 billion euros higher than Greece’s estimate. This is largely due to the visiting officials not accepting the savings Athens is forecasting it will make from changes to the social security system. The creditors said they will study the government’s proposals and continue discussions on Friday, after holding talks on Tuesday with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

Troika officials will brief the Eurogroup on Thursday about the progress of the latest Greek review but there will be no decision regarding the disbursement of the next bailout tranche, which amounts to 1 billion euros. In fact, a European Union official in Brussels told journalists that there is not likely to be a verdict at next week’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers, nor the one on December 9.

He suggested that there were “miles and billions” separating the two sides and a final decision might not come until after the “skiing holidays.”

Stournaras appeared incensed by this assessment and insisted that Greece and the troika are edging toward a deal.

“Whoever made this statement, which does not reflect the constructive discussions with the troika, should have the courage to say the same thing using his name,” said the minister of the EU official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity. “We are not miles apart, just meters.”

It appears likely that after returning to Greece on Friday, the troika will leave the country again on November 22 to return in December in an attempt to complete the review.

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