18th Jan 2020


Embattled Greek government in Brussels this WEEK

  • EU officials want Greece to go faster on economic reform (Photo: EPP)

The Greek government is in town as the EU's institutions hope to enjoy a week of relative calm following the high drama of last week's eastern partnership summit.

Prime minister Antonis Samaras and his ministerial team will be in Brussels on Wednesday (4 December) against a backdrop of renewed criticism from its creditors in recent weeks over the contents of its 2014 budget.

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Samaras' government tabled its budget plan without the blessing of the EU/IMF Troika earlier in November, although Athens has indicated that it is ready to amend it if needed.

The Troika claims that the budget has a shortfall of around €1.5 billion.

While EU officials have offered public support for the governments recent austerity efforts, they want Athens to quicken the pace of tax reform and a privatisation programme.

The latest review mission by the Troika, which began in September, is yet to be finalised, putting a block on the next €1 billion tranche of the country's loan deal.

Officials say that a deal will not be reached at next week's meeting of eurozone finance ministers, leaving the Eurogroup scheduled the day before the EU leaders summit in two weeks time as the last possible agreement date in 2013.

But Athens is not facing an imminent cash-flow crisis with enough money to keep it afloat until spring next year.

Elsewhere, justice and home affairs ministers will meet on Thursday (5 December) with EU rules on data protection set to top the agenda.

The EU is considering whether to continue with its existing data-sharing agreements with the United States, such as Swift, PNR and Safe Harbour, following fresh revelations about the scale of US surveillance of EU citizens.

Trade and energy ministers will also gather in the EU capital this week.

For their part, MEPs on the economic affairs committee are set to agree the European Parliament's negotiating position on the single resolution mechanism for banks, the second key part of the bloc's proposed banking union.

Deputies want to ensure that the regime includes a eurozone-wide resolution fund to cover the costs of a banking collapse, an idea bitterly opposed by Germany.

Meanwhile, in Frankfurt on Thursday, the European Central Bank will hold the last meeting of its governing council before the end of the year.

ECB President Mario Draghi surprised analysts by cutting the bank's base interest rate to the historically low level of 0.25 percent, as the bank remains concerned about both business lending and deflation.

Prices across the eurozone are increasing by 0.7 percent, well down on the bank's target of 2 percent.

However, Draghi is not expected to announce any further radical measures.

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