BRUSSELS – Greek Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis will butt heads with the country’s international lenders at a Eurozone meeting on Dec. 8 as they haven’t responded to government plans to close a fiscal gap.
Envoys from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) estimate the hole in the 2015 budget is as much as three billion euros while the government puts it at 1.7 billion.
The dispute has kept the lenders away from a visit to Athens to check progress on long-delayed reforms and sidelined Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras’ hopes of taking an early exit from the harsh terms of two bailouts of 240 billion euros ($307 billion) with his coalition government, that includes the PASOK Socialists, on the ropes.
It’s uncertain what kind of reception that Hardouvelis will get as the government has already admitted it will need an extension to the memorandum with the Troika on the deal which is set to expire at the end of the month.
Some Eurozone countries are in favor of a six-month prolongation, which Hardouvelis had ruled out and as Deputy Premier and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos has said it would be for only a few days or few weeks.
Hardouvelis though is backing away from his own comments and wouldn’t comment on whether the extension for three months, which would take it past a critical election for a symbolic Greek President that could see the government fall if it doesn’t get its man elected.
“I am convinced that the process of the final program review will soon end with a positive result,” said Hardouvelis during the budget debate in Parliament where the coalition’s 155 lawmakers got it rammed through.