No swift breakthrough expected in troika talks

Greece and the troika are not expected to break the deadlock in their negotiations over the next few days, sources told Kathimerini after another day of tension-filled talks between the two sides.

Troika sources suggested that there is still a sizable distance between the two sides, with Greece’s lenders putting next year’s fiscal gap at between 2 and 3 billion euros. The Greek government submitted its 2015 budget to Parliament on Friday despite this disagreement. It is insisting that any deal with the troika must not involve the need to adopt additional austerity measures next year.

The European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund expect to see some concessions from Greece in the next few days if there is going to be any chance of completing the pending review by December 8, when eurozone finance ministers will meet in Brussels.

Among the key issues are: the Greek government giving greater independence to the General Secretariat for Revenues, adding the number of products and services that are subject to the top rate of value-added tax (23 percent), scrapping VAT breaks for some islands and introducing income or wealth criteria for taxpayers who can benefit from payment plans for their arrears.

The government is ruling out the option of extending the current program if it is not able to come to an agreement with the troika soon, allowing preparations to begin on a precautionary credit line. “There is no such official position,” said Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis when questioned about a possible extension on Friday.

This was supported by government sources, who pointed out that extending the current bailout would be too costly politically but might also not be possible as it would need the approval of eurozone member parliaments.

Hardouvelis insisted that the return of the troika to Athens in order to conclude the review is dependent on a “political decision.”

“If the troika wants, it can be here in a day,” said the finance minister. “We can go on negotiating for six months but we could also have a decision within a day.”

Hardouvelis spoke on Friday with the head of the Euro Working Group, Thomas Wieser, and IMF representatives in a bid to move negotiations along.

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