December 8 Eurogroup seen as decisive for Greek bailout exit

The Greek government felt encouraged Tuesday by European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici (photo) pointing to the December 8 Eurogroup as a key date for deciding how Greece’s relationship with the troika should evolve.

Sources said that the coalition feels Moscovici’s comments are encouraging for Greece’s plans to exit the bailout at the end of the year, almost 18 months before the final loan installments from the International Monetary Fund are due to be disbursed.

The government still has plenty of work to do to complete the ongoing troika review that will allow it to hold the discussion with its lenders over whether, and under what conditions, it will be able to return to the markets early next year. Troika officials have yet to be convinced by the coalition’s proposals for a range of reforms that are still pending.

Nevertheless, Moscovici’s comment is seen as an indication that a deal could be reached by December 8. The prime minister’s office was also encouraged by comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in which she indicated that Greece could soon exit its program.

Much economic progress has been made in the eurozone since the height of the bloc’s debt crisis, Merkel told the BDA employers’ confederation in Germany on Tuesday, noting Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece had completed or were close to exiting their bailout programs.

“But still the situation in the eurozone remains extremely fragile,” Merkel added.

At the same time, though, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras remains conscious of the growing political uncertainty on the domestic front. Although the premier insisted on Monday after talks with President Karolos Papoulias that Greece would not have to hold early elections, SYRIZA on Tuesday continued to raise doubts about such a scenario.

“There is the same chance of elections being held in 2016 as there are of the sun going out in the same year,” said SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis.

Despite Samaras’s assurances, New Democracy is steeling itself for a possible election contest. Its executive secretariat decided on Tuesday to hold events around the country to mark 40 years since the party’s founding. The move is seen as an attempt to rally ND’s grassroots.

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