Greece insists no tough measures on cards after sending creditors counter-proposals

Government officials sought to appear upbeat Monday even as they awaited a response by the troika to Greek counterproposals aimed at closing a projected fiscal gap for next year and completing a stalled economic review by creditors.

By late last night, there had been no response from the troika to Greece’s proposals, which include a doubling of the value-added tax rate on hotel accommodation, to 13 percent – a prospect that caused consternation in the ranks of the coalition. The government also committed to make “further corrections” next year if the budget execution goes off track, sources said. A high-ranking government official told Kathimerini that the Greek side believed it had made a significant compromise toward the troika. “We will see if they really want an agreement,” the official said.

Earlier in the day Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis told a conference organized by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce that negotiations with the troika remained “tough” but that the Greek side was persisting in a bid to “avert a return to uncertainty.” He added that “significant progress” had been made in the negotiations. Addressing the same event, Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos said Athens was not prepared to enforce new painful measures. “The country must not and will not introduce new austerity measures,” Venizelos said. He added, in an apparent dig at leftist SYRIZA, that “some are trying to fuel fears that are completely unfounded.”

Venizelos stressed that Greece must press on with delayed structural reforms but played down the extent of a feared overhaul to the pension system, noting that only “few additions and improvements” were necessary.

Venizelos said the aim was for the troika’s review to be completed in time for a December 8 Eurogroup summit when, Athens had hoped, Greece’s post-bailout prospects would be addressed. He conceded, however, that negotiations could drag on, noting that they would be concluded before scheduled presidential elections in February.

Stoking political tensions later in the day in an interview with Skai TV, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said any opposition MPs who back the coalition’s candidate would be “apostates.” He added that current coalition leaders were “entirely expendable” in the eyes of the troika.

Troika officials themselves indicated Monday that negotiations with the Greek government were on the right track. Rishi Goyal, of the International Monetary Fund, told a Capital Link investment forum in New York that talks with Greek officials were “constructive,” echoing the words of a European Commission spokesman earlier in the day. In a recorded video message played at the same event, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras appealed to investors, noting that Greece had strengthened its economy over the past two years and was a European leader in fiscal adjustment.

In a related development, speculation about possible further support for Greece was reignited by German Finance Minster Wolfgang Schaeuble’s comments on Sunday that eurozone finance ministers will discuss a possible credit line for Greece in early December. Germany’s Spiegel magazine reported on Sunday that Greece would likely be offered a credit line worth 10 billion euros, with conditions attached.