Officials from Greeces creditors returned to Athens Thursday for their first time since the SYRIZA party came to power, with the radical new government denying it had allowed back the hated “troika” it had vowed to shun.
Athens — which has been scrabbling for cash to meet its next major debt repayments — insisted it had not been strong-armed into submission.
It claimed the technical experts were merely junior officials and not to be compared with the troika teams who it had accused of storming into ministries like colonial “invaders.”
Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis described the officials as a “fact-finding mission” who would gather data to assist the main thrust of talks between Greece, the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which took place in Brussels on Wednesday.
He said the officials would not visit ministries but would remain in their hotels, and the relevant documents could be delivered to them there.
Varoufakis said the experts, who will help draw up a new economic plan for the troubled eurozone nation, will report to the new so-called Brussels Group, which it made up of the old troika plus the European Stability Mechanism.
A finance ministry source had earlier told AFP that the experts would first gather fiscal data, and that discussions on structural reforms and banks would be held next week.
This is the first time that technical teams representing Greeces creditors have returned to Athens since the talks were suspended in December owing to elections being called.
The breakthrough came after six weeks of difficult talks — and often ugly rhetoric — between the EU-IMF-ECB creditors and the radical Greek government that came to power in January with the promise to tear up the country’s austerity-driven bailout.
The new government’s aggressive stance quickly alienated Greeces creditors, who want the new government to respect the terms of the 240-billion-euro ($255-billion) bailout signed by its predecessors.
With many promised reforms still incomplete, and the new Greek government freezing a number of key privatisation projects, Athens has received no money from the remaining bailout funds, and the state is now desperate for cash.
This month alone, Greece must find some 6.0 billion euros to meet its debts — including 1.5 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund.
Varoufakis insisted that Greece would be able to pay.
He said the creditors and Greece “have taken measures” and would come to an agreement to address what he called “a relatively small cashflow problem.” [AFP]