Negotiators to return to Greece


Technical experts will return to Athens to continue negotiations to conclude the country’s second review of its third bailout after the government agreed to implement additional measures that will apply from 2019 onward.

The agreement in Brussels on Monday between the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers was sealed, even though Greece had previously vowed not to take any new measures in 2019, after the current bailout expires in 2018.

The agreement includes measures targeting the tax system, pensions and the labor market in order to pave the way for the release of more loan tranches from the current bailout program which Greece needs over the coming months to avoid bankruptcy and the prospect of Grexit. 

Eurozone chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the technical experts would also work on a package of structural reforms.

“There will be a change in the policy mix, moving away from austerity and putting more emphasis on deep reforms,” he said, adding that the deal could convince the International Monetary Fund to rejoin the Greek program. The Washington-based organization has insisted that Greece must take more measures if it is to get on board.

Government officials on Monday were keen to reassure that austerity will not be increased, but will be offset by different forms of tax relief.

“We have not agreed specific measures,” Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis told Skai TV. “But we agreed that whatever changes are made at one level, for example tax increases for some categories of Greeks, there will be equivalent measures to reduce taxation.” He added that “every measure that carries a tax burden of one euro will have a counter-measure that eases one euro in tax.”

A government official insisted to Kathimerini that the agreement fulfilled the Greek condition of not “one more euro of austerity.”

However, the opposition conservatives were quick to point out on Monday that the Greek people were being “bamboozled.”

New Democracy said that yet another date had gone by without an agreement in sight, and accused the government of doing nothing with regard to debt relief and Greece’s bid to join the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing mechanism – two key stated objectives of the leftist-led coalition.