Greece set to accept continued role for IMF

Greece is set to ask for a brief extension to its current bailout and is discussing the possibility of the International Monetary Fund maintaining a prominent role in whatever program will follow, Kathimerini understands.

Following inconclusive two-day talks with the troika in Paris, government officials indicated Thursday that it is unlikely the current review will be completed in time for the December 8 Eurogroup. This means there would not be enough time to negotiate the terms of a precautionary credit line with the eurozone before the start of the new year.

“The aim is for the last tranche to be disbursed by December 31. If for technical reasons some procedures cannot be completed there could be an extension, but not a new bailout,” said Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos after meeting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday morning.

An extension to the bailout would mean that Athens does not risk losing the 1.8 billion euros yet to be disbursed by the eurozone. It would also allow Greek banks to continue receiving cheap loans from the European Central Bank.

Apart from the extension, though, sources said that the government is also willing to concede ground on the issue of the IMF’s involvement. Until now, the coalition has indicated that it wants to exit the IMF part of its bailout, which runs until spring 2016, at the end of the year. However, some eurozone members are keen for the Fund to remain on board.

Athens now believes that if it gives in on this point and agrees to some other measures, such as moving some products and services from the lowest value-added tax rate of 6.5 percent into higher brackets, it would help clinch an agreement with the troika.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis identified the IMF as the toughest negotiator within the troika. “They do not care who is in power and if we will have [snap] elections in March,” he said.

While SYRIZA was critical of the government’s failure to conclude negotiations in Paris, it spent most of Thursday trying to deflect criticism of contact between two of its MPs, Yiannis Milios and Giorgos Stathakis, and investors in London. The two lawmakers met with several market representatives in Athens and leaked internal e-mails indicated that the presentations the SYRIZA MPs gave left their audiences unimpressed.

Stathakis indicated that the leaks bore “no relation to reality.”

“SYRIZA’s positions now have an international audience, which understands that a comprehensive solution is needed to make debt sustainable so the Greek economy can recover,” he added.

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