Berlin open to backing early Greek bailout exit

Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis on Wednesday secured the commitment of his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble that Greece’s eurozone partners would approve the country’s early exit from the memorandum with a precautionary credit line if all is in place by year-end.

Schaeuble pledged the support, Kathimerini understands, on the condition that it wins the required approval in the Bundestag and some other eurozone parliaments by the end of December. The exact nature of the credit line which would be extended to Greece remains unclear but its aim would be to provide Greece with emergency funding in the event that it is unable to tap capital markets.

Speaking after meeting Schaeuble in Berlin, Hardouvelis said the talks focused on the progress of economic reforms in Greece and the outlook for the country’s relationship with its international creditors following the end of the European arm of the bailout on December 31. “We have to enter a new relationship from January 1,” Hardouvelis said. “The German side understands this, that we must find a solution soon, and set the parameters for the relationship.”

Hardouvelis said the issue of the so-called troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – was not discussed at all during the meeting, noting that it was “a discussion between two states.” “Germany has its opinion, and has helped Greece repeatedly,” Hardouvelis said, adding that the two sides were now discussing a “mutually acceptable solution going forward.”

The Greek minister appeared confident that Berlin would continue to help Greece, describing Schaeuble as “pro-European.” “He wants a strong euro, a strong eurozone, and it was emphasized during our meeting that in order to have a strong eurozone, we must have a strong Greece.”

A Finance Ministry source told Kathimerini that the new relationship would not involve the current “micromanaging” carried out by the troika. The head of the Euro Working Group, Thomas Wieser, said Greece would remain subject to some kind of monitoring, like Ireland and Portugal which both recently exited bailouts, but that it would be much less intensive than the supervision to date.

The prospects for an early bailout exit, and the conditions attached to such a scenario, are to be discussed on Thursday by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partner, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos. The reforms Greece has pledged to the troika, whose representatives are due back in Athens next month, will also be reviewed.

According to sources, the Labor Ministry is determined to broach the troika’s demand for an overhaul to laws governing trade unions in a bid to minimize the unions’ power and make it harder for them to call strikes. Authorities believe they can secure a consensus within the coalition and with associations representing workers and employers, Kathimerini understands. The aim is to offer the troika progress on the trade union law while winning a reprieve on a much more controversial second overhaul of the pension system, sources indicated.

Separately, in an apparent show of New Democracy unity, Samaras had lunch on Wednesday with former conservative Premier Costas Karamanlis.

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