A European official speaking to Athens news agency said that renewed efforts are underway to stop a last minute obstacle that will end the prospects of an agreement on Greece at Friday’s Eurogroup.
According to the official a new “stumbling block” in the talks was because of the IMF expressing renewed doubts about the reliability of the contingency mechanism or ‘fiscal cutter’ in 2018, calling for an early implementation of austerity cuts to pensions and the tax-free income allowance.
The official pointed to Berlin as the ‘mastermind’ behind the new IMF demands, saying that it wanted to reopen the issue of the 2018 primary surplus target of 3.5% and whether this will be met. As a result, the source did not rule out the possibility that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble will openly ask for the implementation of cuts as early as 2018 on Friday.
One European official noted that efforts were being made to overcome the difficulties before Friday’s Eurogroup, while another said that “there is still hope for Friday” and that the Brussels’ side has not ruled out a new round of contacts before the Eurogroup.
Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem has said his goal is to present a “political agreement in principle” to the Eurozone finance ministers meeting in Valletta that will open the way for the return of the institutions to Athens to conclude a staff-level agreement on the second review. The European Commission through its spokesperson for financial issues Annika Breidthardt, said that it was in contact with Greek authorities and the other institutions, while expressing conviction that a deal can be reached by Friday.