Athens sees tough talks as EU urges better cooperation

Athens sees tough talks as EU urges better cooperation

With tensions brewing between Greece and its creditors over the progress of reforms, European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein has stressed the need for the government to “own” the country’s bailout program and urged an “improved method of work” between Greece and the Commission, ahead of the second review of the country’s third bailout program in October, so that it can be successfully completed in time.

“These two points are important for us and for the success of the program,” he said, adding that the realization of the program hinges on good planning and coordination.

His comments came as Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos predicted on Monday that “difficult and confrontational negotiations” lie ahead with the country’s quartet of international creditors.

Tsakalotos added, nonetheless, that he expects the negotiations to be easier than those over the first review, given that most of the thorny fiscal measures “are now behind us.”

“We now have more institutional measures to pass now, but the agenda is changing toward a growth-oriented one and we have more time to persuade [the creditors] that we have a parallel program, [whether that be] for health [or] education,” he said, adding that it is not in the country’s interests to delay the completion of the second review.

“We want to be consistent… because we want to create stability.”

Tsakalotos had earlier accused members of the creditors’ technical teams in Athens of undermining negotiations on reforms and of making “absurd” demands.

In the meantime, the primary surplus that Greece must achieve after 2018, when the program ends, is still under negotiation, which means that the midterm program for 2016-20 has still not been concluded. The updated midterm program should have been submitted in May for approval.

However, the government’s economy team claim that the cabinet or financial policy council will convene by the end of the week with the aim of getting government approval, so that it can be tabled in Parliament next week and voted through by early August.

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