Crucial talks with troika in Paris

A Greek government delegation is to meet representatives of the country’s troika of international lenders in Paris on Tuesday for two days of talks aimed at bridging a rift between the two sides and relaunching a stalled economic review in a last-ditch attempt to prepare for a Eurogroup summit on December 8.

The meeting in Paris was announced on Monday after being arranged late on Sunday in a bid to break the deadlock.

Sources close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras struck an upbeat tone, saying the Paris talks could secure the return of the troika to Athens as well as an agreement regarding Greece’s prospects after the end of the European part of its bailout on December 31.

Samaras and his coalition partner, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, met late Monday to finalize Greece’s positions on key issues. Venizelos said the Paris meeting would bring Athens “a step closer to the end of this negotiation.” Earlier in the day, the Finance Ministry struck a similar tone, saying the meeting had been arranged to “advance the review and examine the framework for the day after.”

But troika officials indicated that the talks in Paris would focus only on the current review and not the prospects for next year. “Both parties continue to work closely together with the aim of concluding the review,” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said. Another troika source said it would be “very difficult” for the audit to be completed this year.

Despite the reservations, Greek officials hope two days of talks in the French capital will yield a compromise by Thursday when eurozone officials are to hold a Euro Working Group summit in preparation for the December 8 Eurogroup.

Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis, who is to lead the delegation of ministers in Paris as he did in a similar meeting in early September, has prepared responses to a 19-point to-do list sent to Athens by the troika. On Sunday, Hardouvelis sent the troika some proposals for narrowing a fiscal gap that creditors foresee for next year but they are believed to fall short of the bold interventions being demanded by creditors. Key points of contention are overhauls to the labor market and pension system with Athens unwilling to make major interventions in these controversial areas.

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