NEWS

In first talks after lenders’ return, officials agree to wrap up inspection by April 21

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Greece and its lenders held what Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos termed “introductory” talks on Wednesday to mark the return of the institutions’ mission chiefs to Athens for the bailout review.

Even though the two sides did not go into great detail about the series of issues that need to be settled for the review to be completed, a timeline leading up to inspectors signing off for the release of further bailout funding was set out during the meeting.

Greece was mainly represented by Tsakalotos and Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Houliarakis in Wednesday’s talks, although Labor Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, who has the task of finalizing the government’s pension reform plan, joined the negotiations later in the day.

Sources said both sides agreed that they should aim to complete the review by April 21, when an informal Eurogroup is due to be held in Amsterdam. This gives Athens around 40 days to settle a range of complicated issues.

It was decided that the top representatives from the Greek government and its quartet of creditors – the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Stability Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund – would decide on the size of the measures that need to be taken between now and 2018 by March 20.

After this, the technical teams will start working on the legislation that needs to be drafted for the implementation of the measures.

The aim is for the bills to have been voted by April 21, when eurozone finance ministers will meet.

If everything has been completed, the Eurogroup will also give the go-ahead for the discussion on debt relief to begin.

Speaking on Wednesday, European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici indicated that the negotiations about Greece’s debt should conclude around the beginning of May.

Exiting the talks Wednesday night, Katrougalos said that the creditors had not insisted on cuts to main pensions and that the discussion had focused on establishing a “roadmap” to tackle the key issues related to pension reform over the next few days.