Annoyed Troika Delays Athens Return

The Troika's team in Athens in November, 2013.

Greece’s hopes of securing a deal with its international lenders to get release of a delayed one billion euro ($1.37 billion) installment have received a setback with news that the envoys aren’t coming back to Athens next week as planned after they said it’s pointless for now because of unresolved disagreements.

Officials from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) also said the timing isn’t resume to talks over the country’s 2014 budget which they said has a hole of about 1.2 billion euros, nor other delayed reforms, because Eurozone finance chiefs are meeting on Dec. 9 and the talks were stalled.

“We can’t go back to Athens and then interrupt the review again. That’s already happened twice,” an unnamed European official told Kathimerini, adding that efforts to achieve a deal before the Eurogroup meeting were essentially zero.

Greece has one more chance because the final Eurozone meeting will be on Dec. 18 ahead of a meeting of EU leaders that will wrap up work for the year, two weeks before Greece assumes the rotating, powerless, symbolic presidency of the bloc.

The Troika said Greece has been reticent to believe there’s a gap in the budget – Prime Minister Antonis Samaras there isn’t – and the lenders said there’s no plan how to deal with it. Samaras said he won’t again impose austerity measures that came with two previous bailouts totaling $325 billion but worsened a six-year-long recession and have created record unemployment and poverty.

Another obstacle is what to do about the money-bleeding defense industry EAS which the government wants to operate for at least another year although the Troika wants it downsized or sold off and the workers fired.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras reportedly discussed the progress of negotiations with European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde as well as the IMF’s envoy to Athens Poul Thomsen during a teleconference call.