Greek program, prospects to be discussed in Brussels amid political upheaval

After a tense weekend, the government now faces a critical week with the progress of Greece’s economic reform program, and its possible extension, expected to be addressed on Monday at a summit of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels.

The Greek government sent a reply to the troika over the weekend, offering clarifications on its counter-proposals for revenue-raising measures to close a projected fiscal gap for next year. According to sources, there was no essential shift in the position of the government, which appears determined to avoid imposing new austerity measures amid rising political and social tensions.

There was speculation that troika mission chiefs may return to Athens this week to resume talks with the government.

Eurozone officials have indicated that Greece will require an extension to its program in order to complete the review and enforce agreed-to reforms. However, the government is unlikely to agree to a scenario involving an extension of several months, with authorities expected to apply for an additional few weeks instead.

The timing of an agreement with the troika could also affect political developments with the possibility of presidential elections, due in February, being brought forward to January if a deal with the troika appears out of reach.

With likely political upheaval ahead, the issue of presidential elections, and the snap polls that will follow if a new candidate is not approved, dominated much of the debate in Parliament over the weekend.

Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos noted, in comments published in Agora newspaper on Saturday, that political uncertainty has made the troika mistrustful and unfair, referring to “an emergency government” which is “striving to convince enemies and friends of facts and achievements.” He indicated that talks with the troika and forthcoming presidential elections are inextricably linked. “Shaping a new framework for the relationship with our partners and electing a president have one common denominator,” Venizelos said. “The need for a responsible approach and consensus.”