Gov’t fears backlash as it scrambles to wrap up bailout talks


Wednesday’s elections in the Netherlands will mark yet another missed deadline for the government as it had aimed to conclude the second review of Greece’s third bailout before major European countries head to the polls, as the results could narrow the path to a deal even further.

But the government also appears set to miss another deadline, as it had hoped to at least reach a staff level agreement with creditors over the prior actions needed to wrap up the review by the March 20 Eurogroup.

With an agreement highly unlikely by then, the leftist-led coalition has now set its sights on breaking the stalemate by the April 7 Eurogroup in Malta, as was indicated by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras last Friday in Brussels, when he said that a comprehensive deal, including measures beyond 2019, is possible by early April.

No progress in the stalled talks with creditors is expected on Wednesday, but an effort is expected over the coming days to bridge differences before Monday, even though government aides do not appear overly confident.

“Everyone knows each other’s positions. And we are not starting from scratch,” an aide to the premier with firsthand information on the course of the negotiations told Kathimerini.

The aide said that it is incumbent on all parties involved to go the extra mile to make a breakthrough in the negotiations, which have stalled due to disagreements over pension reform, labor laws and energy.

The delays in sealing a deal, and the uncertainty that goes with it, are making the government increasingly jittery, and several lawmakers of the ruling SYRIZA party are even calling for the negotiations to extend beyond Easter as they would prefer to avoid angry local constituents who, they fear, will accost them – over the compromises the government will be forced to make – when they return to their constituencies for the holiday period.

But pressure on the government is also coming from within – namely, the Group of 53 faction, the self-appointed guardians of SYRIZA party purity.

Christos Karayiannidis, a leading member of the faction, has declared that SYRIZA’s parliamentary group will ally itself with the decision of the party’s central committee on whether it will back the measures in Parliament.

The message to the government is clear: Any agreement with creditors must first secure the approval of the party before it reaches Parliament.

And in another sign of widening cracks within the government itself, Karayiannidis said he was on the same page as Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, who cautioned against “big talk,” referring to the triumphant rhetoric of government officials which sought to gloss over the results of the previous Eurogroup, which led no closer to a deal.