EC mission sets up office in Athens

The European Commission’s task force leader in Athens, Horst Reichenbach, and his team are to set up office in Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) building in the central Athens district of Gazi in the coming days -- the first step toward establishing a permanent presence in Greece that the country’s international creditors have demanded, Kathimerini has learned.

Reichenbach’s team, which currently comprises about 10 officials responsible for monitoring the implementation of reforms that Greece has pledged its foreign lenders, is to be boosted considerably, to an initial total of 40, sources said.

Following lengthy negotiations about who should oversee the work of this mission, it was decided that the team would be monitored by a Greek national who is a high-ranking official of the EC’s Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), Vasilis Lelakis. The delegation is to be split into two camps that will also be overseen by two more officials, another DG ECFIN executive, Zenon Kontolemis, who is Cypriot, and Georgette Lalis, a senior member of the task force who has been working closely with Reichenbach in recent months.

The entire team is to be put up at RAE’s headquarters as a midway solution until permanent offices are found, according to sources who told Kathimerini that the prospect has met with vehement opposition from employees at the regulatory authority. Most are reluctant to share space with representatives of the country’s foreign creditors and some also fear attacks by angry citizens, the sources said. s

Reichenbach has expressed optimism in recent weeks that Greece will improve its finances, noting that it has already registered some progress, but he has admitted that the country’s credit sector is still a cause for concern. The task force chief said in March that budget visibility had improved hugely, allowing authorities to have an overview of spending at national, regional and local level for the first time. Asked about the further spending cuts, Reichenbach said that Greece has “tested the limits of what people can bear.” 

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