ATHENS— Greece is not at “war” with the European Union and International Monetary Fund, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on the eve of the latest review by the lenders to decide whether to pay the next tranche of bailout loans.
Inspectors from the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank, known collectively as the “troika,” resume a visit to Athens on Tuesday to check how far the country has come in meeting its bailout commitments, including privatizations.
Doubts had emerged over whether the lenders would return this week as scheduled after differences emerged over how to plug a gap in Greece's 2014 budget, but the two sides settled their differences.
“First of all let me say something - let's do away with this notion that we are in some kind of war,” Samaras told Greek TV late on Monday. “It is a negotiation.”
The lenders fear that without new measures, Greece will miss a targeted primary budget surplus, excluding debt servicing outlays, next year.
They estimate the budget shortfall will reach two billion euros. The Greek government expects, however, it will be much smaller, around 500 million euros, and can be filled with “targeted” measures and structural reforms.
Samaras' finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, who is due to meet the troika on Tuesday, told reporters late on Monday that the budget was “realistic.”
Samaras' conservative-led coalition government is rejecting across-the-board wage and pension cuts or tax increases, arguing it deserves some slack after delivering the biggest budget deficit reduction recorded in the euro zone.
Six years of an austerity-induced recession have sent unemployment to record highs and plummeted living standards.
“Society cannot take it, the economy cannot take it, and it is not even required by the country's current financial situation,” Samaras said.
He played down speculation that any standoff with the troika over fresh measures could lead to elections.
“I don't believe there will be any conflict in this matter,” he said. “These are issues that we are going to resolve.”