J. Dijsselbloem and Labour Minister Katrougalos disagree on pension system reform

Measures concerning both the pension system and labour market reforms are expected to be the focus of talks during the second review of Greece’s programme, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem informed the Dutch lawmakers on Tuesday, in the customary document sent by the Dutch finance minister prior to each Eurogroup.

Dijsselbloen noted that the second review of Greece’s programme, which is now underway, will be on the agenda of the next Eurogroup on November 7. He said the Dutch government considers the rapid completion of this review important, while adding that it included a broad range of measures.

He said the institutions will brief Eurozone finance ministers on the details of these and noted a need for measures relating to privatisations, the financial sector, the energy market, public administration, medium-term and long-term budget strategy, the business climate, the market for products and education.

Dijsselbloem also announced that the official conclusion of the first review now opened the way for short-term debt relief measures for Greece, as announced by the May 24 Eurogroup meeting, which will be mainly focused on reducing interest rate vulnerability, including a ‘gentler’ profile for European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) loans and debt repayments in 2017. The institutions’ next mission to Athens has been scheduled for November 14-21, he said.

Although, the issue of Greece’s pension system was settled during the first review of the Greek programme, Labour Minister George Katrougalos insisted on Tuesday, as he emerged from a meeting held at the finance ministry.

“What is happening now is to check the implementation of the law and the operation of the Single Social Insurance Agency,” Katrougalos told reporters, noting that the necessary decisions and circulars were still pending. This was a very difficult task, he added, but all decisions and circulars will be issued in time.

The labour minister further explained that there will be a “clean-up” of welfare benefits, stopping those that “overlapped” with the Social Solidarity Income, but without cuts to special categories of welfare payments, such as those to the disabled or family benefits.

Alternate Finance Minister George Chouliarakis, replying to questions, ruled out an abolition of heating benefits and noted that the 105 million euros earmarked for this had already been added to the 2017 budget.

In addition to Katrougalos and Chouliarakis, the meeting included Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Alternate Labour Minister for Social Solidarity issues Theno Fotiou.