By Lefteris Yallouros – Athens
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso gave the Greek government a vote of confidence Wednesday after meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Brussels.
Barroso said the Greek economy would grow again in 2014 and that everyone should assist the country in the final few steps towards that goal.
The Commission President hailed Greece’s reform efforts and insisted on the need for the country’s EU peers to show solidarity, and not just discipline, as Greek government officials seek to reach an agreement with troika inspectors before the end of the year.
“Greek people have made immense, incredible sacrifices to get us here,” Antonis Samaras said in turn after the meeting. The Greek PM appeared confident an agreement with the troika is imminent and there is no rift between the two sides.
Eurogroup leader Jeroen Djisselbloem also commented on Greece’s negotiation with the troika on Wednesday, saying an agreement could be reached within December, however, talks between Athens and the troika remain difficult and that the next tranche of funding will not be disbursed to Greece until the troika has delivered a positive report.
Meanwhile, as the Financial Times point out in an article this week, “the (Greek) government’s decision to proceed with the submission and budget debate defies the new Eurozone rule, which requires Member States to submit draft budgets to Brussels for approval before their adoption by parliaments”.
This is the first time since the country agreed to a rescue deal that it has defied its lenders causing increasing worry and frustration to EU officials, as the newspaper points out.
Troika officials are not due to return to Athens until after next Monday’s scheduled Eurogroup summit. In the meantime, Athens will step up its efforts to reach a compromise on outstanding issues.
The government wants to reach agreement with creditors this month and clear its agenda before Greece takes over the EU’s rotating presidency on January 1. If a compromise is not reached, the government could act on its own initiative at least on the issue of maintaining a ban on home foreclosures. Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos warned earlier this week that the government will not negotiate lifting the ban.
Sources in Athens say that both Greek officials and the troika are likely to agree on a partial lifting of the ban for property worth over EUR 180.000. This is seen by many as a fair compromise as there are many wealthy home-owners being protected by the ban even though they have the ability to make their repayments.