|Monday, 25 January 2021|
Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 16-11-28
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Tsipras, Moscovici say Greece and lenders are close to a deal on 2nd reviewPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras and EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Pierre Moscovici agreed Greece and the institutions are very close to an agreement on the second program review, during a meeting at Maximos Mansion on Monday.
Speaking in front of the cameras, Tsipras said "we are very close to a deal" noting that the country faces additional challenges as a frontline EU country in southeast Europe coping with security issues and refugee flows. "This is why I believe it is now more crucial than ever to take courageous decisions for all sides," he said adding: "We have already shown our will and now we expect our partners to do the same."
He said the aim is to become part of the solution in Europe instead of part of the problem, adding "we are no longer discussing about a Grexit" but on the contrary "we want it to be a success story for Greece, the Eurozone and Europe as a whole."
"We have already achieved impressive results and now it is the right time to make the necessary efforts to ensure that Greece will recover rapidly," he said.
Moscovici said talks on Greek debt must start noting that an important milestone will be the Eurogroup on December 5, which should open the road to a comprehensive solution, which would be good for both Greece and the Eurozone.
"I think we are very close to an agreement. We had a very successful first program review and the second is underway," he told the prime minister, adding that as long as Greece implements the reforms, the EU will also do the same.
The EU Commissioner said the Eurogroup on December 5 is crucial, but warned debt talks will not conclude in one meeting. Instead, they will open the way for a comprehensive solution in the interests of Greece and the Eurozone.
This is the time for Greece to reap the benefits of its efforts with growth, investments and jobs for the people of Greece, who he said he knew how much they have suffered. "Greece absolutely has the ability to recover and deserves our trust," he said.
 Moscovici: Greece and institutions could reach staff-level agreement by end of weekGreece and its lenders could achieve a staff-level agreement before the end of the week so that the Eurogroup on December 5 may open the way for a comprehensive agreement, EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told journalists on Monday after a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens.
Asked about the likelihood of the review being divided into two parts because of the IMF, Moskovisi said a staff-level agreement must be reached within this week in order to have a positive Eurogroup on December 5, paving the way to a comprehensive agreement. "Discussions are continuing, progress is being made, they are moving in the right direction and it is entirely possible, and that is what the European Commission wants," he said.
The EU official reiterated that the Commission was and is in favour of "a strong Greece inside a strong Eurozone dedicated to growth", adding that the EU cannot expect austerity to achieve that.
 FinMin Tsakalotos proposes lower primary surplus targets after 2018, with savings directed to growthGreece's Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos on Monday proposed the lowering of primary surplus targets by one percentage point in 2019, after the end of Greece's adjustment programme in 2018, from 3.5 pct of GDP to 2.5 pct of GDP. Speaking at the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce 27th annual "The Greek Economy" Conference, he said the estimated 1.8 billion euros this will save should be spent exclusively on boosting competitiveness, by lowering the taxes and contributions paid by small and medium-sized enterprises.
Tsakalotos said he was addressing his proposal to those countries that claimed Greece's problem was not high debt but low competitiveness.
The minister also clarified that "fiscal space" created by tackling tax evasion and illegal trade will be spent on social actions, while that from reducing primary surpluses will be spent on growth.
"If the primary surpluses are not reduced, the compromise between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Europeans will on us and the Eurogroup will say, pass more measures. That is neither honest, nor does it make economic sense. We have implemented the programme to the letter. Greece cannot adopt any more measures," he said.
Tsakalotos said the next month will be the most crucial after July and August 2015, since without a conclusion of the second review, there will not be a solution on the debt and Greece will be unable to join the ECB's quantitative easing programme. Ultimately, this will prevent attempts to essay forth into the markets in late 2017 or early 2018, when the current Greek programme officially comes to an end, he said.
The minister identified three main issues in the talks with Greece's creditors, starting with the reforms and fiscal targets for 2017-2018.
Tsakalotos noted that Greece's reform programme over the past year had been unprecedented, touching on all aspects of the economy and the state, while expressing some impatience with the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) "scepticism" about the "quantity and quality" of Greece's reforms.
He pointed out that, regarding labour issues, the Greek government was "negotiating entirely within the memorandum we signed in 2015, that Greece will legislate based on best practices in the EU." He also pointed out that the "Committee of Wise Men" had supported government positions on collective bargaining and mass layoffs. Tsakalotos criticised attempts by European institutions to "negotiate outside EU best practices" in this context, noting that they should "not consider that a country in a programme also has reduced rights."
"The reason why we want collective negotiations is so that workers can also partake in the benefits of recovery," he added, noting that the 'centrifugal' forces now seen in Eurozone were caused by the workers' sense that they do not participate in growth.
Another issue, Tsakalotos said, was the fiscal gap arising in the 2018 primary surplus target (3.5 pct of GDP) due to the implementation of the Social Solidarity Income benefit. He said this distance had been successively covered and did not now exceed 0.1 pct of GDP.
He also pointed out that total social spending per capita in Greece was low by European standards, not exceeding 65 pct of the EU average and 55 pct that in Germany. "We are not, therefore, generous; we are among the lowest in this area. And growth cannot go hand in hand with inequality and social exclusion," he said.
Regarding the 2019-2020 primary surpluses, Tsakalotos reported that Greece, the IMF but also several European countries considered that primary surpluses of 3.5 pct will be hard to sustain for several years.
"The IMF says that this is also its own analysis, because it creates recession and austerity. But the IMF also says that if the Greeks agree to high surpluses, we will require more measures of them....instead of facing up to the big countries in Europe who resist measures for the debt, they are targeting Greece, which is in a weak position," he said.
On the debt, Tsakalotos reported good progress on the short-term measures and said the Greek government was "waiting with great interest for the discussion after December 5 on the medium-term and long-term measures." He said the government's intention was for the three 'aspects' to tie in together, so the IMF could make a decision.
Few people now believed that the Eurozone was going through "golden times," Tsakalotos added, and one of the reasons was that it showed itself unable to solve problems and preferred to "kick the can down the road".
"If they do this again for Greece, this will not only be bad for Greece but for the entire Eurozone. Success is when you give a country a clear corridor and when you show the people that the solutions include them," he said.
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