After months of delays, momentum is finally gaining for a first review of Greece’s third bailout program.
The inspectors from Greece’s lenders – the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the European Central Bank – as well as the the European Stability Mechanism, are expected to return to Athens this week to begin talks with the Greek government. That’s according to information from the lenders. Up until now, there has only been contact at the technical level.
The euro-zone finance ministers, known as the Eurogroup, will discuss the Greek reform program progress when they meet in Brussels on Monday. Then it’s expected that there will be an official announcement of the return of the inspectors to Greece. What was once dubbed the troika is now the quadriga, with the addition of the ESM, the rescue fund that disperses bailout money to struggling E.U. member states.
This first official evaluation of the program adopted last summer is critical, and not just because a further payout of €1 billion is at stake. After the report is presented, the International Monetary Fund will decide whether it will continue to participate in the Greek recovery program. Its own program for Greece runs out this month. The euro-zone countries also want to discuss debt relief with Athens.
The first evaluation was supposed to have taken place this past fall but has been delayed repeatedly. The German government was critical of the pace that Athens was implementing the agreed-upon reforms and there were also internal disputes among the lenders. The IMF wanted to see tougher cuts than the Europeans. For example, the IMF demanded cuts of 4 to 5 percent of gross domestic product in pension reform savings, whereas the European Commission, the ECB and the ESM felt that for the time being pension cuts were unnecessary.
This internal conflict is going to be put aside now, according to insiders. The IMF accepts that during this first evaluation the focus should be on the financial goals for this year and the coming year. That will allow a little flexibility on the reforms.