Greece and its international lenders are close to a deal on its bailout review but differences remain on labour issues, the government’s spokesman said on Thursday.
Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said a comprehensive deal would include a change in Greece’s fiscal mix from 2019 and clarity on medium-term debt-relief measures.
“Our aim is to have the discussions on a staff-level agreement concluded by the next eurogroup meeting (of euro zone finance ministers) of March 20,” he told reporters.
Creditors started fresh negotiations with Athens last week on signing off on a new bailout review under the terms of the country’s 86 billion euro (74.9 billion pounds) financing facility.
The talks at a central Athens hotel wrapped up on Thursday, and would continue via teleconference over the coming days, a senior government official said.
Tzanakopoulos said a deal would allow Greece to participate in the European Central Bank’s asset purchase programme and return to financial markets.
“Once we have a comprehensive agreement, there will be a discussion by the ECB on including Greece in QE (quantitative easing). I think there will be a positive development on this issue.”
Greece’s reference to a ‘comprehensive deal’ includes a staff-level agreement with lenders on labour and energy market reforms, clarity on medium-term debt restructuring, and another batch of fiscal measures from 2019 to keep the country’s primary surplus – excluding debt servicing costs – at about 3.5 percent.
The International Monetary Fund is seeking a relaxation to labour laws which would allow mass layoffs.
“Views of the IMF and Greece are different. We will try to bridge these differences,” Tzanakopoulos said.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Lefteris Papadimas; editing by John Stonestreet and Toby Davis)