Greece, lenders to start talks again, as countdown starts


Greece’s creditors will return to Athens next week to assess its bailout compliance, in a review which should be concluded swiftly if the country is to meet its goal of emerging from lenders’ supervision next year.

Athens hopes to wrap up the review by January to start discussions with its lenders right after on the terms of exiting its current, 86-billion euro bailout in August 2018, and on further debt relief – a long-standing Greek demand.

European Union and International Monetary Fund technical teams were expected in Athens on Wednesday to prepare the ground for the mission chiefs’ return next Monday, the first of at least two scheduled visits, officials close to the talks said.

The talks will focus on Greece’s efforts to reduce banks’ bad loans, a thorny issue for the EU and the IMF, and its fiscal performance, the officials said. Reforming the public sector and opening up the energy market will also be high on the agenda.

So far, Athens has completed about 15 of about 100 demands which include some labor, pension and tax reforms, opening up professions and some privatizations in a seemingly easy review. But risks remain as the clock is ticking, the officials warned.

“There aren’t many difficult issues under this review as opposed to the previous ones,” an official close to the talks told Reuters. “But a delay [beyond January] entails the risk of igniting more demands from the IMF on banks and debt relief.”

Greece is expected to outperform this year’s target for a primary surplus – which excludes debt servicing costs – of 1.75 percent of gross domestic product. It also expects economic growth of 1.8 percent this year.