Decision on Greek debt relief delayed

22 December 2016
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There was a further delay on Wednesday in the process for unlocking the short-term debt relief measures for Greece.
Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos had been due to send a letter to Greece’s lenders confirming that the pension bonus and freeze on value-added tax for some islands the government recently decided on are one-off measures and that Athens remains committed to meeting its fiscal targets.

The letter had been expected in Brussels on Wednesday, a day after the Euro Working Group decided it could overcome the concerns of some eurozone member-states that feel the short-term debt relief measures should remain on hold until the second review is completed.

Athens decided against sending the letter until it receives more information regarding the kind of pledges that the institutions are looking for. The International Monetary Fund is said to have asked for the most specific commitments. The Greek government felt it needed further clarification before sending the note to avoid any more complications.
Sources in Brussels said there is some constructive work going on between Athens and its lenders and that the EWG is unlikely to need to convene again to discuss the matter.

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve insisted on Wednesday that the benefits given out by the Greek government do not cast any doubt over the country’s ability to meet its fiscal goals and that Paris acted to ensure there were “balanced and fair” positions within the EU regarding this issue.

There was a unanimous vote in the Greek Parliament on Wednesday in favor of keeping VAT on several Aegean islands affected by refugee flows at a discounted rate for another year. All 259 MPs present voted for the measure.

The day was marked by a flurry of activity in the House as 19 ministerial amendments and 27 drafted by MPs were submitted in what appeared an abuse of parliamentary procedure. Some of the legislation related to fixed-term contracts for sanitation workers, the legalization of certain buildings erected without proper permits and the cancellation of penalties for breaches of the electoral process.

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