Open Europe Blog

As we noted in our press summary today, this week is lining up to be another big one for Greece.

The Greek government faces two crucial votes in parliament – first on Wednesday to push through the latest package of structural reforms (as demanded by the EU/IMF/ECB) troika and second on Sunday to approve the latest and, according to Greek PM Antonis Samaras, the last austerity budget for next year.

Since the governing coalition was formed after the second summer elections, such votes have usually passed without much fanfare. However, this time around the Democratic Left (which holds 16 seats in parliament) has said it will not vote with the its coalition partners. Pasok (which holds 31 seats) is also facing a period of internal strife with one MP already leaving and up to five others threatening to at least vote against the government. New Democracy (127 seats) should have an easier job pulling its MPs together.

The votes should pass but the margin for error is tiny, possibly only two or three votes, notably provoking unrest amongst financial markets and other eurozone leaders. In the end, given that the end of the government would very possibly signal the end of Greece as eurozone member, the (perceived) fear factor is likely to be enough to once again push the vote through.

This clears the way for the release of the next €31.5bn tranche of bailout funds and a potential two year extension to the Greek bailout. Today’s FT notes that the extra funding for the extension is likely to come from an increase in short term debt issuance by Greece and possibly a reduction in interest rates on eurozone loans to Greece – exactly as Open Europe predicted in its recent flash analysis on the issue.

The FT article also includes a potential plan for the ECB to return profits from its purchases of Greek bonds to Greece via eurozone governments to avoid the thorny issue of the central bank directly financing a state. This sounds plausible on the surface since the returning of profits to national governments should happen naturally anyway under the ECB rules. The only issue being that this can only happen overtime as the profits accrue as the bonds are paid off, so its unlikely to be paid out in a single chunk at one time (as is needed here).

One final point on the cost of the extension. We put it at around €28.5bn, although estimates range from €15bn to €40bn. We didn’t include a delay in Greece’s return to borrowing from the markets, which is looking increasingly likely. If Greece doesn’t return to borrowing until after 2016 it could add a further €10.6bn to the cost of an extension.

So although this is a big week for Greece, even a clear government win in both votes will do little to answer questions over Greece’s future in the eurozone.

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