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Sapin: IMF wants Greek opposition to also commit to fiscal targets, measures after 2019

By N. Bellos

The IMF wants Greece’s political opposition to also approve any new agreement for fiscal measures and targets after 2019, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin maintained on Tuesday, an abrupt revelation that would further complicate ongoing negotiations between Athens and its institutional creditors if proved true.

Nevertheless, only a few hours later, Bloomberg quoted an Fund official as flatly denying any demand for assurances by Greece’s political opposition. Bloomberg said the official requested anonymity, in line with IMF policy.

Earlier, the French minister had expressed his surprise over what he said was the Fund’s latest demand vis-a-vis the Greek program.

“Can you image if they asked us, the French, to ask for the opposition’s commitment,” he said, adding that such a demand is unrealistic. Moreover, he referred to the IMF’s “obsessions” with labor market liberalization and social security reform.

With fiscal targets dictating an annual primary budget surplus of 3.5 percent (as a percentage of GDP) in the “medium term” after 2019, the IMF has pressed for – and European creditors have accepted – that austerity measures are enacted now in order to ensure that targets are achieved after the third bailout ends in mid 2018.

Sapin made the statement in Brussels, a day after yet another Eurogroup meeting ended without a staff-level agreement between creditors and the increasingly embattled leftist-rightist government in Athens.

Finally, he said all parties should assume their responsibilities in concluding the now utterly delayed second review of the Greek program, which he said will have repercussions on others, and not just the Greek economy.   

Ιn his own later response, Bloomberg quoted powerful German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as telling reporters in Brussels that “…in all program countries the institutions have always said: what is specified for the future should be accepted by the opposition when there are elections some time in the future. This isn’t new either.”