Wednesday

21st Feb 2024

Agenda

Greek debt talks to dominate this WEEK

  • Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis will be the centre of attention again in Brussels this week (Photo: Council of European Union)

Greece’s debt crisis will, once again, dominate proceedings in Brussels this week. Eurozone finance ministers will gather in the EU capital on Monday (16 February) in a concerted attempt to agree a new debt deal with Alexis Tsipras’ government.

Ministers failed to come close to an accord at an emergency meeting last week but Tsipras expressed confidence that agreement would be reached in an interview published Sunday in German magazine Stern.

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"I expect difficult negotiations; nevertheless I am full of confidence," he said, promising that Greece would be “a completely different country" within six months.

The Greek government wants a bridge programme to be put in place until the summer while a new deal is agreed to replace the remainder of the €240 billion bailout programme.

Failure to get close to a deal on Monday could prompt further emergency sessions later in the week.

On Wednesday, financial services commissioner Jonathan Hill will publish an ideas paper on forming a capital markets union (CMU), in a bid to make European businesses less reliant on banks to provide the funding to stimulate the bloc’s economy.

European firms currently rely on banks for around 80 percent of business finance. The commission wants to follow the example set in the US where companies get five times as much funding from capital markets as their EU counterparts.

The EU executive is expected to put together an “action plan” for possible legislation in the autumn.

The European Parliament has a quiet week ahead with MEPs returning to their constituencies for one of the institution’s ‘external activities’ weeks. A delegations of deputies led by former economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn will take part in the World Trade Organisation’s parliamentary conference this week.

Meanwhile, representatives from the assembly’s justice and home affairs committee will visit the headquarters of EU border agency Frontex in Poland, a week after boats carrying more than 300 would-be migrants from North Africa sank in the Mediterranean sea.

In Frankfurt, meanwhile, the European Central Bank’s governing council will hold its monthly meeting. In January the council agreed to launch a €1.1 trillion government bond-buying programme in March to stave off a combination of weak economic demand and two consecutive months of deflation in the eurozone.

However, this time it is the ECB’s stance on Greece that will be watched most keenly.

The bank put immediate pressure on the Tsipras government by denying it the option of being able to use Greek government bonds to get finance from the ECB, forcing it to rely on getting emergency funding at higher interest rates from the country's own central bank.

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