Tsipras to present 2016 budget, as Eurogroup reviews bailout progress


Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was scheduled Monday to submit a 2016 budget that is expected to include spending cuts, as the government tries to meet the demands of international creditors who granted Greece a third bailout over the summer.

Tsipras is due to present his programme before parliament at 7:30 pm (1630 GMT). His SYRIZA party and junior coalition partner Independent Greeks control 155 seats in the 300-seat legislature, and the budget is expected to be approved.

Tsipras’ SYRIZA party was re-elected in snap elections last month, called by the party leader to renew his mandate after signing an 86-billion-euro (97-billion-dollar) bailout deal that included cost-cutting measures he had promised to roll back. The poll saw the lowest electoral turnout in Greece in more than 50 years.

Tsipras is expected to propose a budget that adheres closely to the bailout conditions agreed to in tough negotiations, which include market reforms and spending cuts. He has also said he wants to overhaul the tax system to combat undeclared incomes, support the pension system and re-capitalize the country’s ailing banks.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was presenting the government’s policy priorities to his eurozone counterparts on Monday afternoon, at a Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg.

“A lot of work has to be done – a number of reforms still have to be implemented, new reforms have to be designed on the pension market, labour market,” Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem told journalists ahead of the talks.

“It’s in the Greek interest to deliver as quickly as possible,” he added, saying that Athens must act before the eurozone would be willing to consider the debt relief much sought after by Greece.

The country also has to implement a series of reforms before it can access its next bailout tranche. Greece received an initial 13-billion-euro disbursement in August.

Another 3 billion euros that are now available will be split into payments of 2 billion euros and 1 billion euros. The 2-billion-euro tranche could be disbursed this month, sources said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in Luxembourg that he thinks the eurozone ministers would be able to reach “a common position” on Monday about the 2-billion-euro tranche.

But Athens has to meet a series of milestones before it can access the bailout aid.

“I’m confident because I think this government is now very conscious that there is no alternative than fulfilling the commitments that have been taken with the European Union in order to be capable of benefiting from the huge funds that are in the [bailout] programme,” EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said.

“There are one, two points that are delayed because of the new elections … But as such the course taken is right,” Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling said.

The Greek parliament is due to hold a three-day debate about the new government programme, followed by a confidence vote on Wednesday.

The parliament has elected a new speaker, long-time SYRIZA party member and former interior minister Nikos Voutsis, who is expected to bring a more conciliatory tone to the legislature after his predecessor Zoe Konstantopoulou’s occasionally combative style.