Thursday

28th May 2020

Late night talks fail to reach Greek deal

  • The dinner was 'constructive' but failed to reach an accord (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras had "constructive" talks with the presidents of the European Commission and Eurogroup on Wednesday night (3 June) in Brussels but no agreement was found to unblock a €7.2 billion loan.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Tsipras said the two sides were "very close" to a deal but said that the "realistic proposals" were those put forward by his government.

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The commission noted that it was a “good and constructive” meeting”.

“Progress was made in understanding each other's positions on the basis of various proposals," it added, indicating that both Greece's proposal and a common proposal by its creditors were discussed.

Before the meeting, an EU source told EUobserver that "the offer on the table is the creditors' proposal, it's the only one that matters," adding that the Greek PM had not received the document before traveling to Brussels.

The proposal had been readied by the EU, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after a high level meeting in Berlin on Monday night (1 June).

It is the first proposal made by Greece's lenders since the Eurogroup agreed in February to extend the bailout programme.

Until now negotiations were only about Greek proposals.

The dinner, which lasted more than three hours, was to "verbally present" the creditors' plan to Tsipras and "ensure that he accepts, but not with a knife under the throat", the source said.

"We are not going to lose more time with semantic disputes."

The Greek PM said parties were "very close to an agreement on the [budgetary] primary surplus", but pensions remain the main blocking point in the negotiation.

Until recently, the IMF insisted on more cuts in Greek pensions than the EU and the ECB.

The creditors' common proposal is said to contain little flexibility on this issue.

"There are issues that no one could approach," Tsipras said after he was presented with the plan.

"Proposals such as abolishing the supplementary pensions of low-pension retirees or increasing VAT on electricity by 10 percentage points are proposals that cannot constitute a basis for discussion."

For the Greek prime minister, who needs to balance the expectations of the electorate and the hard left in his Syriza party, pensions and purchasing power "are absolute red lines", a Greek source told this website.

Talks will continue in the coming days.

Technical talks are to continue on Thursday. Tsipras, commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Eurogroup president, could meet again soon if progress is made.

A breakthrough would open the way to an extraordinary meeting of euro finance ministers to confirm a deal.

The sense of urgency over Friday's €300 million repayment to the IMF has faded, with Tsipras telling reporters not to "worry about it".

ECB chief Mario Draghi on Wednesday said he wanted "Greece to stay in the Euro" but that a "strong agreement" was needed.

"A strong agreement is one that produces growth, that has social fairness but that is also fiscally sustainable and addresses the remaining sources or factors of financial instability in the financial sector, " he said.

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