Greece, EU: Reform review programme needs to end soon
Greece and the EU have both expressed the view, in a statement on Tuesday, that the first review of the country’s economic reform programme needs to be completed as soon as possible.
"Our firm position is that the programme review must be completed in a short time because neither Greece nor Europe have time to waste," government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said.
"Any differences need to be bridged; the ball is now on the institutions' court, that need to show a constructive stance," Gerovassili underlined.
On pension reforms, she stated that the new proposal of the government supports the low and middle earners, while there are gradual increases to the high incomes.
She also said that the government is open to dialogue with the farmers. "Our aim is to find the best possible solution," she stressed.
The government spokeswoman noted that Greece will be ready ahead of the European Council meeting on 18 February, but what matters is that EU countries meet their commitments since this is the key to reducing refugee flows.
She said that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in order to be briefed on her visit to Turkey.
Tsipras made clear that any involvement of NATO will concern the Turkish territorial waters and should by no means affect Greece's sovereign rights, she underlined.
Gerovassili also stated than the issue of joint patrols in the Aegean has not been raised.
Referring to Tsipras' visit to Iran, the government spokeswoman said that it is part of a wider framework of initiatives for upgrading Greece's international relations. Gerovassili said the visit to Iran was successful and strong investment interest was expressed from both sides - especially in the technology sector, oil, manufacturing, energy and transport - and added that significant agreements have already been signed between Greek and Iranian businessmen.
EU Official: Programme needs to be concluded soon
The review programme needs to be concluded soon, a senior Eurozone official said.
The same official said that the negotiations between the Greek government and the institutions in Athens 'went very well', however, some differences still exist on the insurance, the 2016 fiscal figures and the years after, the reform of the public administration and the privatisation fund. He described the issues of the first review as 'complex' not only on technical terms, but mostly in political terms, adding that everyone "hopes that the review will be completed relatively soon." Nevertheless, he underlined that the "quality of the agreement is far more important than the time it will be completed."
On pension reforms, he noted that progress has been made in the negotiations because everyone recognises that a combination of factors is necessary. He also stressed that the aim is the creation of a pension system that will be positive for the official sector of the economy.
Regarding the possibility of taking emergency fiscal measures for 2016, he reiterated that measures corresponding to 1 per cent of GDP must be taken, but they have not been determined yet. As he said, the Greek authorities and institutions have agreed to work on the 2016 budget.
Concluding, he said that a date for the institutions' return to Athens has not yet been set and confirmed that discussions over the main issues of the technical consultations have been concluded.