Stournaras hopes to clinch troika agreement with extra measures of 1.2 bln

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is to present to troika officials on Sunday a package of structural and fiscal measures worth 1.2 billion euros, or 0.7 percent of gross domestic product, in a bid to reach an agreement with Greece’s lenders over the size of the 2014 fiscal gap.

Stournaras revealed his plans following a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels on Thursday, when his peers highlighted the progress Greece had made but urged Athens to tie up a number of loose ends with the troika.

“Views are converging,” Stournaras said. “We differ on some matters. Whatever hole there is in the budget will be filled with measures of a structural nature that have budget benefits. I am confident.”

The Greek finance minister insisted that recent criticism of Greece was unfair and that the government was largely on track with regard to its fiscal and reform targets. He said that the 1.2 billion euros in extra savings next year would come from clamping down on loopholes that allow companies to evade social security contributions, reducing the budgets of public organizations, merging state bodies and strictly implementing the across-the-board wage structure in the public sector.

Stournaras, however, admitted that there are some differences between Athens and the troika on the way forward. He said that Greece is not prepared to accept the troika’s request for Hellenic Defense Systems (EAS) to be shut down, nor will it agree to the complete lifting of a partial ban on home foreclosures.

Earlier, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that the “glass is half full” in relation to Greece, as he and EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn acknowledged the effort that has been made so far. However, the Dutch finance minister urged Greece to complete its “prior actions” to secure its next bailout tranche of 1 billion euros.

“It’s important the review is finalized as quickly as possible,” said Dijsselbloem. “There’s political urgency, urgency of commitment.”

He said the three other goals Greece should have are to achieve an agreement with the troika on the size of the 2014-15 fiscal gap, and to make progress on structural reforms and privatizations.

The key eurozone news to emerge on Thursday was that Ireland has agreed to exit its bailout next month without calling on any further funding from its lenders. “The Irish government’s assessment is that the best option for Ireland is to exit the program as planned in December without a prearranged backstop,” the country’s Department of Finance said.

Rehn said Ireland’s announcement “provides clear evidence that determined implementation of a comprehensive reform agenda can decisively turn around a country’s economic fortunes and put it back on a path of sustainable growth and rising employment.”

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