Leaving behind large protests in Greece against his government’s pension and tax reform proposals, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with Chancellor Angela Merkel in London Thursday in the hope of securing the German politician’s support for a swift conclusion to the bailout review.
Sources said that during the talks on the sidelines of a conference on Syria, Tsipras explained to Merkel that his government is living up to its bailout commitments but that some flexibility is required from Greece’s lenders to ensure that the review, which began this week, does not drag on and damage the chances of an economic recovery.
The government is concerned that prolonged talks with the institutions could cause political problems due to the rising protests against the reforms put forward by the coalition. Athens does not expect the quartet of lenders to make their position known until late next week but will be watching closely for any leaks in the meantime that might give an indication of what stance they intend to take.
Following the latest round of talks with the visiting mission chiefs Thursday, Labor Minister Giorgos Katrougalos described the negotiations as “detailed and tough.” Ahead of Friday’s last meeting before the lenders’ representatives leave Athens, it was decided that the two sides would try to resolve a series of minor issues before tackling several major conflict points.
These include the lenders’ objection to the 1.5 percentage point rise in social security contributions and setting the minimum national pension at 384 euros per month, which is considered too high.
Another matter yet to be resolved is whether Greeks will have to work a minimum of 15 years, as the government proposes, or 20 years, as the creditors argue, to qualify for a pension.
Kathimerini understands that the lenders have recorded their objections to the government’s proposals in a lengthy e-mail. The Greek side insists that the quartet has not asked outright for a cut to existing pensions, which the government has set as a “red line” in the negotiations.
The government has already tweaked its initial proposals on social security contributions with the aim of limiting the rises faced by the self-employed.