THE EUROGROUP appears to be losing patience with Greece which has still not been able to put together a credible list of reform proposals that would allow the two sides to reach agreement over the extension of the ‘loan agreement’. Head of the Eurogroup and Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Monday “it is taking way too long” and called on Greece to “stop wasting time.” There had been little progress since Greece agreed to draft a list of reform proposals during discussions two weeks earlier, said Dijsselbloem.
Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis denied there had been delays, arguing that the seven proposals sent last Friday were by no means comprehensive. Another seven to eight had been prepared he said, while another seven would be ready next week. This is a very laid-back approach from the minister of a country that is expected to run out of money in a few weeks and desperately needs funds to be released by its international lenders to keep it afloat. It appears that the Europeans are in a much bigger hurry to reach the agreement than Greece which actually needs the money.
Even the list of proposals sent to Brussels by Varoufakis last Friday, about tax inspections on the islands by members of the public, could not be taken seriously. This was made clear at Monday’s Eurogroup meeting at which the message of finance ministers was that the ‘institutions’ would now take over. Experts from Greece would start meetings in Brussels today with representatives of the ‘institutions’ (not the troika) to try to calculate the costing of Varoufakis’ proposals and establish whether these were viable. Also ‘technical groups’ (not the troika) would go to Athens to inspect fiscal figures because the Europeans are convinced there is no primary budget surplus as the Greek government has maintained.
In short, everything that the Syriza government claimed it would have stopped – dealings with the troika, inspections by the troika, measures imposed by Brussels – is taking place; only the names have changed. The new, Greek government has brought this upon itself, because it has failed to keep its side of the bargain with the Eurogroup – promptly draft reform proposals that could be implemented and achieve the desired results. So now it will have to sit with the technocrats of the ‘institutions’ to work out a reform plan. In the end, it might even have to accept measures imposed by the ‘institutions’ in order to secure the desperately-needed funding.
Dijsselbloem was very clear about this. He said there could be “no talk of early disbursements if there is no agreement and no implementation.” Hopefully, the Greek government will show a sense of urgency from now on because time is running out for it.