Athens looks to Europeans after IMF board fails to provide spark


Athens is hoping that its European lenders come up with a way to overcome the impasse in its bailout review after a meeting of the International Monetary Fund’s executive board on Monday left little room for encouragement about a swift conclusion.

Although the IMF board did not take a clear position regarding the Fund’s participation in the Greek program, its demand for more measures did not inspire hope in Athens that an agreement with the institutions might be around the corner.

“The Fund cannot on the one hand say that the country does not need more austerity and insist on lower primary surplus targets but on the other ask for the legislation of a lower tax-free threshold and new cuts to pensions,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said during a regular press briefing. “This is a completely contradictory line.”

Tzanakopoulos said he is certain that there will be moves on all sides in the coming days to bridge the differences between the lenders and between the institutions and Greece. He did not give any details about specific initiatives from the Greek side.

Government sources said that Athens is not thinking of taking the initiative itself as this would probably be fruitless. Instead, it hopes that one of the institutions will make a move as this would mean that some common ground will have been established earlier. “The Greek government can discuss and agree to whatever as long as it is sustainable in its entirety and leads to Greece’s inclusion in the European Central Bank’s QE program,” said Tzanakopoulos.

New Democracy stepped up its calls for the government to abandon the change in social security contributions for the self-employed. Conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis repeated his call for tax cuts, a message the party believes is resonating with the middle class.

An opinion poll by Rass for the news website published on Tuesday gave New Democracy a strong lead over SYRIZA. The conservatives garnered 28.6 percent, 11.8 percentage points ahead of the leftists, whose support reached 16.8 percent.

New Democracy also continued to ask for more details about a recent trip to Paris by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, where he met with representatives of L’Oreal and Rothschild & Co investment bank.