Labor Minister Giorgos Katrougalos and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos resumed negotiations with representatives of the quartet of the country’s creditors over the weekend, as Greece is in a race against time to wrap up the review, paving the way to debt relief talks and the unlocking of the first tranche of bailout funding.
European officials told Kathimerini that Greece will receive a tranche of financial assistance from its third bailout in June at the earliest, and on the condition that the review closes this week and talks on debt relief have been concluded.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is banking on a swift conclusion of talks by Tuesday and having a deal signed by Easter that will pave the way for relief talks at the International Monetary Fund’s Spring Meeting in Washington on April 15-17 – a key objective of the SYRIZA-led coalition.
However, despite the the government’s optimism that it is on the brink of an agreement with creditors, there is little evidence of the review ending soon, as obstacles still remain on all fronts, as further suggested by the lack of progress at Thursday’s Euroworking group (EWG). Officials from the EWG told Kathimerini’s Sunday edition that the Greek side has made very little progress.
Countries like Germany, Finland, Austria and Holland, moreover, have repeatedly criticized Greece of being “six months behind schedule,” arguing that it should have completed the review of its program in October.
The Greek demand for debt relief has already received the backing of the IMF, though the Washington-based organization is adamant, in line with the EU, that Greece must do more in terms of “real reform,” otherwise the figures won’t “add up,” according to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
The biggest hurdles to a deal with creditors include pension reform, the framework for the sale of nonperforming loans and the measures needed to close the fiscal gap by 2018.
Greece has drawn up a draft of measures it believes it must take to complete the review but this differs from the draft prepared by European Commission and the IMF.