It is not just that by lowering the expectations from his meetings with international leaders Kyriakos Mitsotakis avoids the risk of going down, but more than that, the foreign capitals do not want to hear about a reduction in primary surpluses, nor a prospect of that happening in the future.
The “primary surpluses” were not mentioned at all in the leaders’ statements or in the press briefing after Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ meeting with Emmanuel Macron. Information from French sources indicate that the agenda for the meeting (and for the leaks in the press) was largely set by the Champs-Elysees, which did not want the possibility of any change in the Greek fiscal policy to be included in the European debate.
The expectations are even lower when it comes to the matter of surpluses from the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ meeting with Angela Merkel and with Vice President and Minister of Finance Salts. After all, Berlin, as Maximos Mansion already knows, faces its own battles within the country, with three consecutive election contests in line to be held in the near future; therefore, it is unlikely it will tackle the subject of Greece’s changing fiscal policy goals.
However, unlike Paris, where Kyriakos Mitsotakis travelled alone, in Berlin, as is customary in the first visit of a Greek prime minister, he will be accompanied by the Finance Minister Christos Staikouras as well as by the Assistant Minister of Migration Policy, George Koumoutsakos. The government spokesman stated yesterday that the agenda of the talks in Berlin evolves around the economy and the attraction of investments in the energy and immigration sectors. Mr. Petsas confirmed that the Greek government does not raise the issue of surpluses on its behalf, while reminding of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ earlier statements that the issue will be raised in 2021, after the 2019’s budget implementation, and after carrying out the commitment of the 2020 surplus while at the same time continuing to gain reliability”.
Officials from Maximos Mansion as well as from the Ministry of Finance are trying to hide their concern about the recessionary period the international and European economies have entered. While realistically acknowledging that it will have consequences for the Greek economy, they gloss over the situation by declaring that “the Greek economy can turn out to be the pleasant growth surprise of the years to come”. However, the prime minister avoids raising the issue of the possible impact the international crisis might have on the Greek economy and the need to revise the agreed targets in his international meetings. Instead, he focuses on “restoring confidence in our economy’s growth prospects”, as the low interest rates in the latest government bond auctions show, from the issuance of a seven-year bond through which the country borrowed 2.5 billion euros at a historically low interest rate of 1.9%.
The Prespa Agreement out of discussion as well
Similarly, the Prespa Agreement issue and the relations with North Macedonia do not make the cut into the international contacts agenda – at the initiative of the Greek government. It is clear that the foreign capitals do not agree with the New Democracy approach and, in the event that the issue is raised, it will cause problems for the Greek government, which sooner or later, will come face to face with the expectations it has cultivated in the “over-patriotic partisans”.
When asked about the subject during the briefing, Mr. Petsas replied: “We have made clear the policy we will follow in the Western Balkans and with our neighbors; we do not think our attitude should be surprising to anyone. Our stance and our position, as well as those of our partners, are well known.”
The subject of the selection board for the first half of 2015 remains open
While the main opposition accuses the government of fraud when it comes to the matter of surpluses, which it “had turned into an emblem for three years”, Maximos Mansion on its behalf focuses on the complete abolition of capital controls, while leaving open the subject of setting up a selection board to look into how we ended up imposing them in the first place, after six months into the SYRIZA governance.
The government argues that, by lifting capital controls “we are fully restoring the normality of capital movements … thus ending a four-year period of insecurity while inaugurating a new period of optimism for our banking system and economy”. However, the issue of the banks’ red loans steadily remains open, in order for the NPLs to play their own financial role in the economy. /ibna