Greece faces another tough Eurogroup summit Monday when a slew of reform proposals from Athens are to come under the microscope in Brussels, with the two sides apparently far from a compromise even as state coffers in Athens are close to emptying.
Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is expected to face a barrage of questions from his eurozone counterparts on a series of proposals set out in an 11-page letter he sent to Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, which include the creation of a so-called fiscal council to generate budget savings, the revision of licensing for gaming and lotteries and the hiring of non-professionals, including students and tourists, as tax agents to help a foundering crackdown on tax evasion.
Sources suggested over the weekend that the proposals had met with skepticism from eurozone officials. In comments on Saturday on the sidelines of a conference in Venice, Varoufakis said he had received a response from Dijsselbloem. He added that Greece was keen to move forward with reforms but that the two sides must agree on “the process by which the reforms will be made more specific, implemented and evaluated so that they can be reviewed by the Eurogroup.” Varoufakis added that Greece’s reform program would be “discussed by technical teams that will convene shortly in Brussels.”
Some eurozone officials appeared to be running out of patience. ECB governing council member Luc Coene said in an interview on Saturday that Greece must realize “there is no other way than to reform,” noting that Greeks had been sold “false promises.”
“Tell me where the money should come from if the Greeks do not want reform and do not want to repay other European countries?” Coene told Belgian daily De Tijd.
Greece hopes that its proposed reforms will secure a portion of a pending 7.2-billion-euro loan installment. But it is unclear whether Varoufakis’s measures will be acceptable. Some believe the lenders will insist on the implementation of measures outlined after the last Eurogroup agreement which included changes to VAT policy.
In the meantime, state coffers are running dry and debt obligations are looming large. The government is ready to tap the cash reserves of social security funds and state organizations if necessary. The Finance Ministry sought to tap a portion of the 900 million euros left behind in the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund, Kathimerini understands, but was prevented by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).