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Greece Takes Budget Battle to Brussels

greece-eu-flagGreek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his Deputy PM Evangelos Venizelos will sit down on Dec. 2 to put their heads together and plan strategy over how to deal with disagreements with international lenders over a gap in the 2014 budget and long-delayed reforms holding up a one billion euro ($1.37 billion) installment before a meeting in Brussels this week with European officials.

Samaras will lead a team of his ministers on Dec. 4 where talks will include how to handle the dispute over the size of the budget gap that the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which is estimated at about 1.5 billion euros ($2.03 billion).

Without reaching an agreement with the lenders, Samaras sent the budget to the Parliament the coalition of his New Democracy Conservatives and Venizelos’ PASOK Socialists barely control with a four-seat majority among 300 members. The government said it’s subject to amendment though.

The Troika said Greece needs to deal with the hole or face imposing more of the austerity measures that Samaras swore he would never do again, and the lenders are also critical over lagging privatization and failure to go after tax cheats and speed the firing of public workers.
Officials said a deal isn’t possible before a Dec. 9 meeting of Eurozone finance chiefs although Samaras said he’s aiming to get it nailed down before by a Dec. 20 gathering of EU leaders. Greece has enough cash for now without the pending one billion euro tranche, giving the government more leverage in its negotiations.
“Discussions are continuing on a set of policies that could form the basis for a successful conclusion of the ongoing review of the Greek economic adjustment program,” said Simon O’Connor, a spokesman for European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn.
“Progress is being made but there remain a number of open issues which require further work. Close and constructive contacts with the Greek authorities are continuing in this context from headquarters. Staff teams will return to Athens in due course but this is not expected to be before the Eurogroup of 9 December.”
The two key issues on the agenda for talks between Samaras and Venizelos are the lifting of a moratorium on home foreclosures and the relaxing of restrictions on mass dismissals.

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