Wednesday

21st Feb 2018

Agenda

Troika back in Greece this WEEK

The troika of international lenders - the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund - returns to Athens on Tuesday (3 July) to take stock of delays in implementing the bailout-linked austerity measures.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has recovered from the eye surgery that last week delayed the troika's first trip to Greece since the 17 June election.

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  • The troika was delayed by one week as the Greek PM underwent surgery (Photo: Constantine Gerontis)

The audit is necessary if Athens is to secure in deadline extension for achieving the tough reform programme expected of it in return for its two bailouts.

Speaking in Athens on Monday, ECB deputy chief Joerg Asmussen said that implementation has "virtually stalled" in the last three months and that kick-starting the programme should be the government's "first priority."

Samaras last week sent a letter to fellow EU leaders meeting in Brussels reassuring them that his government will meet its commitments linked to the latest €130 billion bailout, but also asking them to "respond to sacrifices" by recession-hit Greeks, and accept some changes to the programme.

According to Greek media reports, the government is emboldened by the deal achieved late Thursday night, when Germany accepted Spanish and Italian demands for the bailout fund to be used for directly propping banks and buying government debt.

But Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker stressed that Greece's case was different than Spain and Italy, for whom the new bailout fund rules were conceived.

"The specificity of aspects of the programme that we decided on for Spain and Italy is different from that of Greece, which is a country that has entered a [full bailout] programme," he told the state-owned Athens News Agency on Friday.

"I believe that a strict budget must continue to be applied in Greece because Greece must definitely reform its public finances, it must improve its falling competitiveness and [correct the] weaknesses of Greece," he added.

Meanwhile the European Central Bank will be in the spotlight on Thursday. Economists expect the ECB to lower its benchmark interest rate by at least 0.25 percent, down from one percent. In addition, the eurozone bank may also cut the deposit rate to discourage banks from parking hundreds of billions overnight at the central bank instead of lending to each other.

Cyprus' takeover of the EU rotating presidency from Denmark will be on top of the agenda of MEPs meeting in Strasbourg this week, as well as a debriefing from the EU council and commission on the outcome of last week's summit. Both will take place on Wednesday.

That same day, the Parliament as a whole will vote on the controversial anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (Acta). The plenary vote follows a negative vote in the responsible committee. Acta, which bans internet piracy, has seen mass protests in several EU countries, with some governments already putting the international bill on hold.

A vote on the EU patent may bring the 30-year long delayed project into being, after EU leaders last week agreed on the last missing element - the location of the patent court.

Also on Wednesday, complaints about the re-imposition of border checks between Germany and the Czech Republic are to be discussed.

ECB showdown on bond-buying plan THIS WEEK

A keenly-awaited meeting of the European Central Bank board on Thursday will have to reconcile the details of a bond-buying plan aimed at helping Spain and Italy with the fundamental opposition to the scheme within Germany's Bundesbank.

ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK

EU leaders will gather to begin talking about the 2019 election process and the post-2020 budget, while eurozone finance ministers will ponder choosing the next European Central Bank deputy chief.

Western Balkans and Brexit restart This Week

The EU Commission will unveil its strategy for the Western Balkans in an effort to keep the strategically important region close. It will be a busy week at the EP with geo-blocking – almost – coming to an end.

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