(enikos.gr, Reuters)– “The proposal tabled by the Greek side remains the only realistic and constructive proposal on the table,” said Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, shortly after his meeting with President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
He reprised the positive tone he has taken since he secured a four-month extension of a bailout package in February: “I believe an agreement is in sight,” he said.
“But we need to conclude the discussions with a realistic point of view,” he added, making clear his reservations.
But while the European Commission said “progress was made in understanding each other’s positions”, the Greek government still rejects benefit cuts and tax rises its EU and IMF creditors want before they release fresh loans to avert a bankruptcy that could disrupt the euro zone and world markets.
Referring to what negotiators say have been reductions in the targets creditors are setting for Greece’s primary budget surplus, Tsipras said: “We are very close to an agreement on the primary surplus. That means all sides agree to go further without tough austerity measures of the past.”
But he also again ruled out scrapping supplementary benefits for low-income pensioners or a value-added tax hikes that he said would raise the tax on electricity by 10 percentage points.
This week has seen the creditors sketch out a possible compromise and the government draft its own proposals. “At the end of the day,” Tsipras said, “I think the proposals on the table will be the proposals of the Greek government.”
Juncker’s office issued only this short statement: “It was a good, constructive meeting. Progress was made in understanding each other’s positions on the basis of various proposals. It was agreed that they will meet again. Intense work will continue.”
Before the meeting, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had already publicly rejected a quick deal to unlock much-needed cash for Greece, saying a first glance at new reform proposals submitted by Athens indicated little had changed.
“I have no information that anything decisive has changed in terms of substance,” Schaeuble, who has repeatedly adopted a tough stance towards Greece, said at an event in Berlin.
Greece’s latest offer calls for a budget surplus before interest payments of close to, but just short of, creditors’ proposals for 1 percent this year and 2 percent next, sources said.