Monday

25th Mar 2019

Eurogroup keeps alive hope of Greek deal

  • Greek Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem recognised progress in talks but an agreement remains elusive (Photo: Consillium)

As was widely expected, Monday’s (11 May) Eurogroup meeting produced no agreement to unblock the last tranche of Greece’s bailout but there was cautious optimism that a deal could be in reach.

In their final statement, the Eurozone finance ministers "welcomed the progress that has been achieved so far".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But they added "that more time and effort are needed to bridge the gaps on the remaining open issues" and expressed hope that an agreement could be reached "in a timely fashion".

Greece was only one item on the meeting’s agenda and discussions proved less contentious than the previous Eurgroup on 24 April.

"The discussion was rather short with no controversy and no lyrical flight," a source with knowledge of the talks said.

The official said that German Finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, one of Greece’s harshest critics, did not speak when Greece was discussed.

"Important issues were discussed in depth, but more time is needed to bridge the gap," Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselblome said at a press conference.

Progress was made on harmonisation of VAT rates, the creation of an independent agency to manage state revenues and the management of the so-called non-performing loans - loans which are not repaid.

"We should not underestimate this progress, which is important, precise and welcome," EU finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici said after the meeting.

But differences remain over pensions and labour market reforms which have been designated for long as "red lines" by the Greek government.

"Greek authorities are very clear about what they do not accept, but they have to bring propositions forward," Moscovici said.

With six and a half weeks before the end of the current bailout programme, Eurogroup leaders said both time and Greek finances were running short.

The Greek government has tried to ease fears over a default and repaid a €750 million tranche to the IMF one day before it was due. But concerns are growing about the state of Greek finances as Athens seeks to secure the €7.2bn loan.

"Hopefully we will get that agreement before the time runs out or the money runs out," said Dijsselbloem.

Greek Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis Monday admitted that the "liquidity issue is terribly urgent".


He also said that "of course" the Greek government would have to abandon some of the promises the governing Syriza party made during the electoral campaign.

But he insisted that, despite the growing danger of bankruptcy, the government would "not be compromised".

Varoufakis explained that the Greek government would accept an agreement once "two fundamental questions are answered".

The first question is whether the potential deal can end the deflationary cycle of the Greek economy.

The second question is "whether is it going to be a redistribution of the burden of the crisis" from the poorest Greeks to the richest and whether a deal "would be embraced by a population that for five years has associated reforms with cutbacks".

Referendum

Alexis Tsipras’ government is under pressure from hardline backbencher not to compromise and it is still supported by a majority of the Greek public opinion, although less strongly than before.

Recently there has been talk of holding a referendum on any agreement - something the German finance minister said should happen if needed.

"If the Greek government thinks it must hold a referendum, let it hold a referendum," Schaeuble said.

"It might be a helpful measure for Greece to decide whether it's ready to accept what is necessary, or whether it wants something different," he added, suggesting the Greek government would take the responsibility of a possible exit from the Eurozone if it did not accept a compromise.

Dijsselbloem, for his part, warned that a referendum would block any cash pay-out for Greece

Meanwhile, an EU diplomat told this website: "A referendum would be a way to rein in the Syriza majority, but there is not enough time to do that and it would cost money."

The rise of the untransparent 'Eurogroup'

The Eurogroup has emerged as a key body in the EU's evolving economic governance, playing a major role in the current dispute with Greece over further bailout money, yet it is democratically accountable to no one.

Greece blames EU and IMF for 'obstacles' in talks

Greece took a publicly conciliatory line on bailout talks on Tuesday but a leaked government paper blamed the stalling discussions on the EU and the International monetary fund.

Is Greece about to default?

Greece just used emergency funds to pay the IMF and needs to find another €3bn by the end of May. But is it really on the edge of default?

Leaked Juncker plan seeks to avoid Greek default

According to Greek daily To Vima, European Commission president Juncker sent a memo to the Greek government and its creditors proposing to unblock money before a final agreement is found.

News in Brief

  1. Orban vows more EU 'information campaigns'
  2. May 'effectively out of power', says Scottish leader
  3. May under pressure to resign over Brexit endgame
  4. Million march against Brexit, five million sign petition
  5. Italy first G7 country to sign China Belt and Road deal
  6. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  7. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  8. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  2. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  3. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  4. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  5. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  6. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  7. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  8. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us