NEWS

Technocrats due in Athens on Thursday after start of Brussels talks

Technocrats from Greece’s lenders are expected in Athens on Thursday for talks with government officials, a day after technical discussions about the country’s reform program began in Brussels, where a different set of experts representing creditors met with Greek officials.

Athens had initially resisted attempts by lenders to send officials to Greece to collect information but gave in after it became clear there was no hope of progressing without their presence in Athens at some stage.

The technocrats arriving in the Greek capital are expected to visit the State General Accounting Office as well as several ministries. It has been agreed that the visits will take place in three weekly waves, focusing on different aspects of the economy each time. In the first week, visiting experts will examine fiscal issues. This will be followed by structural reforms in the second week and banking matters in the third.

The discussions in Brussels that got under way on Wednesday involved Declan Costello of the European Commission, Klaus Masuch of the European Central Bank, Rishi Goyal of the International Monetary Fund and the European Stability Mechanism’s Nicola Giammarioli. It is the first time that the ESM is being represented in talks between Greece and its lenders in this way.

Greece’s team is led by Finance Ministry general secretary for fiscal policy Nikos Theoharakis, economist Elena Panaritis, who is an adviser to Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, as well as aides to Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis and Deputy Foreign Minister for International Economic Relations Euclid Tsakalotos.

The gathering will be called the Brussels Group, or BG for short, reflecting the Greek government’s determination to end references to the troika. It is believed that Costello came up with the name.

The aim of the discussions in Brussels and Athens is for there to be a technical agreement by Easter so the government can then submit a multi-bill of reforms to Parliament for approval.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due to meet Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General Angel Gurria in Paris on Thursday to present the government’s plans for public sector reform. The two men are also expected to sign a cooperation deal so the OECD can provide technical help on reforms.