Saturday

19th Jan 2019

Agenda

Greece, migration dominate this WEEK

  • EU leaders will discuss migration in Brussels on Thursday and Friday (Photo: Amnesty International Italy)

The Greek bailout saga is to reach a climax this week, as euro leaders gather for an emergency summit in Brussels Monday (22 June) to see if they can reach a deal and prevent the country's default and possible exit from the eurozone.

Euro finance ministers will meet in the afternoon (at 12.30) before their political masters take up the discussions in the evening, with Greece's demands for a debt restructuring the biggest sticking point.

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Talks at the highest political level is what PM Alexis Tsipras has long been aiming for, as only leaders can take the kind of debt decisions that the leftist Greek leader wants.

However, with both sides digging in their heels on the shape of the deal needed to release the €7.2 billion in bailout money by the 30-June deadline, it has become harder to find a face-saving compromise.

Meanwhile, there is much talk among analysts on where exactly the balance of power lies. Greece exiting the euro is seen as likely to result in immediate economic trauma for the Greeks who largely favour staying in the single currency.

But a 'Grexit' would also leave the EU project badly wounded and end the irrevocability of the single currency. In addition, geopolitical considerations, such as the potential spread of Russian influence is a widely discussed factor.

The language remained harsh on both sides ahead of Monday's summit.

"We're close to point where Greece will have to choose between accepting what I believe is a good offer or heading towards default," said EU Council president Donald Tusk.

Tsipras, for his part, said that a Grexit would "be an irreversible step, it would be the beginning of the end of the eurozone".

But negotiations have not been abandoned. Ahead of Monday's summit, both sides were scrambling to put together a package that might lead to a breakthrough.

Migration

The full cohort of 28 EU leaders will come to Brussels on Thursday for their regular summer summit, with migration and further eurozone integration among the main topics on the table.

The thousands of migrants trying to reach EU shores from north Africa continue to highlight the dysfunctional state of the bloc's migration policy, with current rules saying the first country in which a migrant sets foot should be the one to process any asylum request.

This puts a disproportionate burden on Greece and Italy, where the vast majority land. But calls by Rome, in particular, to reform the system have met with resistance.

A European Commission plan, unveiled in May, to allocate quotas of migrants to each member state have been strongly disputed. But the problem is likely to become even more acute over the summer months.

It is already causing tensions between member states - Italy and France last week were locked in a spat over migrants who make their way north from Italy, without having been checked by Italian authorities.

Eurozone integration

Another controversial topic is further eurozone integration.

The presidents of the commission, parliament, European Council, and eurogroup have put together a report outlining the further integration steps that need to be taken to make the single currency area stronger.

However, the issue is sensitive both for the euro 'ins' - who will necessarily have to give up more power to integrate further - and the euro 'outs', who want to make sure that changes don't infringe on areas such as the single market.

Britain's EU relations will also feature during the summit.

PM David Cameron has said he wants to talk to colleagues at the summit about plans to renegotiate certain elements of EU membership. This new deal is then to form the basis of a referendum - by end 2017 - on whether the UK should stay in the EU.

Foreign ministers will meet in Brussels at the beginning of the week where they are expected to rubberstamp the extension of Russian sanctions and have discussions on energy security and the political crisis in Macedonia.

The meeting is also looking to launch the least controversial parts of EUnavfor Med, a military operation to sink migrant smugglers' boats.

The destroying of smugglers' assets - boats - would require UN approval, but China and Russia are blocking this path.

In the European Parliament, MEPs are Wednesday (21 June) set to vote on the €315 billion growth fund - the commission's flagship project to create jobs in Europe.

'Money time' for Greece

Fears the Greek banking system may collapse remain high as cash outflows continue ahead of emergency eurozone meetings on Monday.

Eurogroup breaks up with no agreement on Greece

Eurozone finance ministers met briefly Monday to discuss Greece but broke off without agreement. A summit on Monday evening will set the political tone for the coming days' negotiations.

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