Troika key talks to start in late July

A technical team representing Greece’s international creditors is to meet with government officials on Tuesday, with top-ranking envoys due to arrive on Thursday, but actual negotiations on possible changes to the country’s debt deal are not expected to begin until July 24, Kathimerini understands.

Technical officials are to lay the ground on Tuesday for talks between top envoys of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known as the troika, who are to meet with Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras on Thursday.

Stournaras is to be sworn in on Thursday before holding talks with troika chiefs who are also to meet Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and coalition leaders Evangelos Venizelos of Pasok and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left, before leaving Athens on Saturday. In their absence, the technical teams are to focus on their audit of Greek finances. The report they compile will form the basis for the negotiations expected to start on July 24. There will be pressure for those talks to wrap up without delay as a Greek state bond held by the ECB and worth 3.2 billion euros expires on August 20 and there are some eurozone member states that are reluctant to release further aid to Greece before talks on the debt deal have been concluded.

Troika officials have indicated that they are open to hearing proposals for a different approach to implementing reforms as long as budget deficit reduction targets do not change.

A top ECB official repeated this again in a speech at a conference in Athens on Monday but said the focus should be on implementation rather than negotiation. The government “should not lose precious time looking to avoid or loosen the program,” ECB executive board member Joerg Asmussen told the Economist conference. “The first priority for the new Greek government has to be getting the program back on track,” he said. He also put a damper on hopes that Greece could secure the deal extended to Spain and Italy at an EU summit last week, benefiting from direct recapitalization of banks. “There are no once-and-for-all solutions, be that a banking license for the [European Stability Mechanism], a European transfer system or the like.”

Addressing the same conference later, the head of leftist SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, said no talks should be held with the troika unless Greece benefits from last week’s EU deal.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the spokesman for European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, Simon O’Connor, played down the prospects for a concession to Greece, telling Kathimerini that it was too soon to say whether 50 billion euros in funding set aside for the recapitalization of Greek banks as part of the second bailout would be dissociated from the country’s state debt. 

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