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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 17-05-17
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Tsipras says Greece could tap markets this summer; sees positive Eurogroup outcomePrime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday he is optimistic that there will be a positive result at the Eurogroup meeting on May 22, based on the positive messages he is receiving, adding that after the review the country could attempt a trial return to borrowing from capital markets this summer.
Speaking to journalists in parliament, he joked that the messages "are too good to be true" and "so positive I may have to wear a tie."
He also said that after the program review is concluded, Greece will receive "a tsunami of investments".
Asked if Thursday's vote in parliament on the prior actions agreed with the country's lenders could be seen as a vote of confidence, he said every vote has such an element and criticized New Democracy's decision to vote against the positive measures included in the bill and submit its own amendment on what offsetting measures to include.
"I'm struck by the fact that ND's amendments focus on the positive measures. There's no discussion on the [negative] measures, only a commitment to implement them, although these measures will not be implemented if there's no deal on debt," he added.
 Eurozone official: 'Discussion on debt still the most difficult issue'There has been very good preparation on a staff level regarding Greece, a senior Eurozone official said here on Wednesday, expressing hope that this will result in a comprehensive agreement that also includes Greek debt at the May 22 Eurogroup.
The same official pointed to persistent differences between the institutions and certain member-states, however, noting that the forecasts currently gave a 50-50 chance of a final agreement on Monday.
The discussion on the debt remained the most difficult issue to be resolved by Eurozone finance ministers on May 22, the official added, while the obstacle to a final agreement was to find a solution that satisfies all sides.
The official pointed out that the decision of the Eurogroup in May 2016 was the basis for the discussion on the debt and that this was already quite detailed regarding the medium-term debt relief measures. The institutions and some member-states had different opinions on how these measures could be made more specific, the source added.
As to what the overall package for an agreement might entail, the official said that this would include the package of policies that have already been agreed, the implementation of the prior actions (many of which have been presented to the Greek Parliament for approval), the compliance report (which involves the translation of thousands of pages and checking for compatibility with what has been agreed) and the Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA).
Also to be decided on May 22 is the size of the primary surpluses that Greece must achieve after 2018, with the official noting that the 3.5 pct of GDP target must be maintained for a number of years (though probably not 10) before it was reduced.
Regarding the disbursement of the next tranche of loans, the official said that this will depend on whether the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decided to participate in the Greek programme. The official appeared confident that there would be sufficient time before Greece has to make the next large repayment of loans in July, however, noting that eight weeks remained until that time and also pointing out that in previous cases in the past, the initial agreement of the IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has been sufficient.
Asked whether Lagarde will be participating in the May 22 Eurogroup, the official said that this was up to the IMF.
According to the official agenda, the Eurozone finance ministers will be briefed on the "preliminary agreement" between Greece and the institutions on the new measures agreed for the second review and will examine the medium-term fiscal targets, as well as debt sustainability issues.
 Bill on Greek deal with lenders reaches plenum; vote expected on Thursday nightThe draft bill on the prior actions agreed between the Greece and its lenders as part of the second program review was sent to the parliament's plenum on Wednesday, after a debate in the committees earlier this week.
The debate will be completed late on Thursday, when the prime minister and the leaders of the opposition will address parliament.
The bill was approved in principle by the government coalition of SYRIZA and ANEL and on the articles by the majority in the relevant parliamentary committees on Tuesday night.
The articles were approved by SYRIZA and ANEL while New Democracy and Potami said they will decide on individual articles at the plenum debate. The Communist Party said it will vote against all the articles except article 71, which repeals the tax deductions for lawmakers. The Democratic Coalition said it will only approve the article on changes to the VAT paid by farmers (article 70). The Centrists' Union will approve articles 70 and 71.
In a late amendment tabled on Tuesday night, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos included top judicial officials in the changes of article 71.
 Eurogroup must decide debt relief measures for Greece, EU Parliament leaders sayThe heads of three political groups in the European Parliament on Wednesday urged Eurozone finance ministers to conclude the second review of the Greek programme and specify the medium-term debt relief measures for Greece when they meet next Monday.
Socialists & Democrats group Chair Gianni Pittella, the Chair of the Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) Gabi Zimmer and Co-Chairs of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts asked for "concrete decisions on debt relief and debt sustainability."
They also called on German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to approach this "vital issue in a constructive and reasonable way."
The full text of the letter signed by the three European Parliament group leaders is given below:
"We call the 22 May Eurogroup to conclude the 2nd review of the Greek programme and decide for the necessary medium-term measures for the debt relief. The road map agreed in May 2016 has to be implemented.
If at the end of the week, the Greek Parliament legislates on prior actions required, Greece will fulfil all promises and agreements from its part. It would be therefore be the time that the creditors fulfil their own responsibilities and obligations. They have to urgently bridge their differences, especially those of the IMF and specific EU creditors on the necessary medium-term measures for the debt relief, which was decided to take place immediately after the conclusion of the 2nd review. These differences and the austerity measures have been proven counter-productive and have caused in the past dangerous delays and confusion.
At this crucial moment, in particular we call on the German Finance Minister Wolfgang SchÃ¤uble to approach this vital issue in a constructive and reasonable way. It is high time to overcome the politically motivated obstacles that have been put in the way of a sustainable financial and clearly defined road-map towards debt relief so far. Concrete decisions on debt relief and debt sustainability should be taken now.
We call on the Greek government to pursue reforms that further support investment, social justice and good democratic governance. The reform of the Greek state in order to support efficiency and overcome clientelism have to continue. Stepping up competition policy to break up oligopolies in the interest of fair markets should remain priorities in order to bring the Greek economy on a sustainable path of recovery.
Further delays should not be accepted, since they will jeopardize the significant latest achievements of the Greek economy based on the sacrifices of the Greek people and the concrete prospects for economic growth, as described in all international economic and financial estimations. An agreement on 22 May Eurogroup will consolidate these positive trends, will give an additional boost to investments and reforms, thus being beneficial for both the Eurozone and Greece.
This will allow Greece access to the ECB Quantitative Easing programme, which is very much needed for the liquidity of the economy and for the positive records of primary surplus. Together with the projections that show a decrease for the government bonds, it will give Greece access to the markets and lay the ground for exiting the Memoranda era and austerity.
Greece for the first time since the beginning of the crisis has well-based prospects for economic development. Greek people should focus on MoU-exit policies and prospects, advancing towards just development and inclusive growth. The Eurogroup has the responsibility to support Greece's course of sustainable recovery."
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