European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi urged the Greek government to allow the institution representatives, formerly known as the “troika” to return to Athens in order to disclose its cash position before it is too late. Mr. Draghi has reportedly increased the pressure applied on the Greek officials during yesterday’s Eurogroup meeting held in Brussels saying that the Eurozone technical levels should visit the country to examine the government’s books if they are ever going to obtain more aid.
According to Bloomberg, unnamed officials said that a similar message has been sent to Athens by the European Commission (EC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the ECB which together constitute the “troika.” As the Eurogroup’s President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said after chairing the single currency Finance Minister’s meeting yesterday, Greece has allowed experts representing the three institutions to start work in Athens by tomorrow, something that Athens officials initially ruled out, saying that all work will be done in Brussels. On his behalf the Spanish Finance Minister Luis de Guintos argued that “the important thing is that we are starting the technical work between the troika institutions and the Greek government,” adding that this cooperation needs to finally bear fruit.
Monday’s Eurogroup did not come to a decision about Greece’s bailout, thereby the ECB cannot continue funding the country yet. The Greek government needs 3.2 billion euros by the end of March to renew treasury bills. Also, obligations to the IMF by the end of March amount to 1.2 billion euros. In April, another 2.4 billion euros for treasury bills must be paid, while obligations to the IMF amount to 448 million euros. By the end of April, 1 billion euros is required to pay interest. In April, the government will have access to 2 billion euros from security funds and 2.7 billion from commercial banks. Even though some security funds disagree with the move, there is no other way. In addition, the state can use 500 million euros from the Financial Stability Fund. Finally, Greece must secure another 3 billion euros in April to fulfill its obligations.
On his behalf, the newly elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is trying to access European funding, while remaining committed to his party’s anti-austerity agenda, that secured leftist SYRIZA a historic victory in the January 25 snap elections. He has already taken some steps back from his pre-election rhetoric, dropping demands for a Greek debt write off and plans to halt privatizations, while accepting that no “bridge financing” can be achieved without implementing the agreements with the country’s creditors.
In return, what he got from the February 20 critical Eurogroup has a semiological rather than a practical impact, as the EC/ ECB/ IMF mechanism ceases to be labeled as the “troika,” that gained negative publicity among the Greeks, although these institutions are still the ones to oversee the Greek extended loan agreement progress. “The troika is a cabal of technocrats that used to arrive in Athens and enter the ministries with a kind of power play that smacked of a colonial attitude,” the Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said at a press conference after yesterday’s meeting. “That practice is finished. We shall endeavor to do whatever it takes to provide the institutions with whatever information they needs,” he explained.
According to another unnamed official cited by Bloomberg, it is impossible for Greece’s creditors to adequately audit the government’s accounts without sending officials to Athens, as the government would need to fly hundreds of Greek officials to Brussels for the work to be done there. “If Greece wants that, one can of course negotiate with the three institutions which we should no longer call the troika, but which is the troika,” the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said last month, before the Greek loan agreement four-month extension decision was taken by the Eurogroup.
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