PM tweaks bill ahead of vote as lenders return to Athens


Potentially contentious provisions regarding farmers’ taxation and the phasing out of early retirement have been withdrawn from the bill Parliament is due to vote on Wednesday, in a bid to ensure that the government suffers as few defections as possible.

The alteration was made as representatives of Greece’s lenders arrived in Athens ahead of the start of talks on the country’s third bailout and the extra measures the government will have to adopt.

The removal of the two provisions means that Wednesday’s vote will be on changes to the code of civil procedure and the adoption of the European Union’s Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD), neither of which should cause any more of the coalition’s MPs to consider rebelling. A total of 32 SYRIZA lawmakers voted against bailout-related legislation last week, with another six abstaining and one missing the vote.

This brought support from the government for the so-called prior actions down to 123 votes, which is just three above the threshold Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would need to meet if he was faced with a confidence vote.

Government sources said that Tsipras hopes he can convince some of those who abstained last week to vote for the legislation Wednesday, thereby giving the sense that the negative mood within SYRIZA has been reversed to some extent.

Once the vote has taken place, the government is due to resume talks with the four institutions: the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Stability Mechanism. However, rather than in Brussels, the negotiations will take place in Athens.

Kathimerini understands that representatives of the four lenders have already started arriving in Athens as there will be limited time for talks. The aim is for Greece to pass a third set of prior actions (including the postponed provisions on early retirement and taxation for farmers) before August 8.

All the discussions need to be completed in time for creditors to disburse funds to the government before the next Greek bond held by the ECB, worth 3.7 billion euros, matures on August 20.

Greece paid a 3.5-billion-euro bond held by the ECB Tuesday along with a 700-million-euro interest payment. It also repaid about 2 billion euros to the IMF, clearing all its arrears after missing several payments in June and July.

Greece received 7 billion euros in bridge financing from its lenders last week.