Greek Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis on Tuesday called for calm in tense negotiations with the country’s international creditors.
Speaking with President Karolos Papoulias before heading to the Maximos Mansion for talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and coalition partner Evangelos Venizelos, Hardouvelis stressed that “tensions are running high” not just in the government but also between Athens and inspectors from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund tasked with assessing Greece’s reform progress.
“When you’re holding the kitty, when you’re making a plan for the country, when you owe money and have the creditors [on your back], you are in the cross-hairs,” Hardouvelis told Papoulias.
“We must and we will find a solution but it requires calm because the key to every negotiation is keeping a cool head,” the finance minister added.
Hardouvelis was meeting with Samaras and Venizelos on Tuesday afternoon to discuss a number of differences between the two coalition partners that are holding up the progress of reforms, which will determine the release of the next tranche of bailout funding to Greece.
European officials on Monday increased the pressure on Athens by indicating that a review by the country’s creditors must resume within the next couple of days if it is to be completed in time for a Eurogroup summit on December 8 when Greece’s post-bailout prospects are to be discussed.
At issue between the coalition partners are, among other issues, changes to the labor market, which PASOK objects to. PASOK is also reportedly open to revoking special value-added tax status on the islands, a prospect that many in ND reject.
There are also differences between the Greek government and its creditors that need to be settled before talks resume, key among which is the size of the fiscal gap for next year which the troika estimates to be more than 3 billion euros. The Greek side puts it closer to 1 billion euros and the government is keen to bridge this gap in the coming days as it must submit the budget for 2015 by Friday.
As regards the settlement of tax debts, Kathimerini understands that the troika wants fewer installments than the 100 provided for by a new law as well as stricter criteria for debtors to qualify for the payment plan.