Athens hopeful of agreement with creditors despite serious differences

Athens hopeful of agreement with creditors despite serious differences
 

Talks between the Greek government and international creditors were completed on Thursday in Athens with no agreement on any of the major issues related to the ongoing negotiations.

The creditors’ mission heads demanded pension cuts with the Greek officials proposing a gradual downsizing of pensions. Creditors also insisted on sweeping labor reforms – including collective layoffs, unionist law reform, specification of the minimum wage by the government, etc.

Despite the fresh impasse in talks, a senior Finance Ministry official said that there has been considerable progress in the talks with creditors about a set of fiscal measures, which will be put into effect after the current program is completed.

The same government source confirmed that the most significant differences between the Greek government and creditors include the “size” of the fiscal pack to be implemented beyond 2018 - with creditors demanding new measures of 2% of GDP – as well as differences in the balance between measures and countermeasures. Labor reform also remains a thorny issue.

Shortly before midnight on Thursday, a Euro Working Group which focused on Greece was also wrapped up. A source in the Greek Finance Ministry told reporters that there was agreement on "positive measures", adding that the goal is to conclude a technical agreement before the March 20 meeting of Eurozone finance ministers.

A spokesman for the European Stability Mechanism said after meetings in Athens: "Important progress has been made on a balanced fiscal package for the post-programme period and a number of key reforms, notably in the financial sector." Technical level talks will continue next week via teleconference, the same source said.

Earlier, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said a comprehensive deal would include a change in Greece's fiscal mix from 2019 and specific medium-term debt relief measures. "Our aim is to have the discussions on a staff-level agreement concluded by the next Eurogroup meeting of March 20," he said.

"Once we have a comprehensive agreement, there will be a discussion by the ECB on including Greece in QE (quantitative easing). I think there will be a positive development on this issue", Tzanakopoulos added.

Meanwhile, International Monetary Fund spokesman, Gerry Rice, commented on Thursday that while there has been progress on some important issues, there are still serious differences, in order for the review to be concluded. Rice said it was too early to speculate on when an agreement with be achieved, since there is much work to be done./ΙΒΝΑ

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