Saturday

20th Apr 2019

Euro leaders to discuss Greece at emergency summit

  • Greek PM Alexis Tsipras will try to reach a bailout agreement with the eighteen other eurozone leaders on 22 June (Photo: Consillium)

Eurozone leaders are to meet on Monday in Brussels for an emergency summit to discuss Greece after talks between finance ministers broke off without agreement on Thursday evening.

"It is time to urgently discuss the situation of Greece at the highest political level," EU council president Donal Tusk said in a statement.

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A few minutes earlier, at a press conference following the meeting, Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that "too little progress [had] been made in the talks between the institutions and Greece and that no agreement as yet [was] in sight".

"We sent a strong signal to the Greek authorities that it is clearly up to them to submit new proposals in the coming days to fully engage with the institutions within the framework of the [Eurogroup] statement of 20 February," Dijsselbloem said, referring to the agreement to extend the bailout programme to 30 June and unblock a €7.2 billion loan in exchange for reforms.

"It is still possible to find an agreement and extend the current programme," he added, officially mentioning an extension for the first time.

But far from being an opportunity to restart a dialogue after talks collapsed last Sunday (14 June), the meeting appeared to entrench the positions further.

"The key emergency is to restore dialogue with adults in the room," International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde said at the press conference.

"We are dangerously close to a state of mind that accepts an accident," Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said in a separate press conference.

Varoufakis said he presented a "comprehensive and strong proposal" to the Eurogroup. But another participant said the discussion on Greece was "a non-discussion".

"He presented ideas. We don't know if they are from the Greek government or if they are specific," the official said. "There is no more patience."

A political agreement between elected leaders has for weeks been the strategy of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

But some kind of technical agreement will be necessary beforehand.

"We need a staff level agreement first," a top EU official said.

"It is always better for the leaders when things are prepared. These are extremely technical talks. Leaders don't like that."

Only eight days before the end of the programme on 30 June, when Greece also has to repay €1.6 billion to the IMF, Monday's summit could be presented as a take-it-or-leave-it discussion to Tsipras.

"We're approaching the time when the game is over," Moscovici warned.

"I appeal to the Greek government to come seriously back to the negotiating table and accept to make a reasonable compromise and avoid a completely catastrophic fate," he added.

The warnings come amid fears by the European Central Bank that Greek banks, subject to large daily deposit outflows, may not be able to open Monday.

Reuters reported that when ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure was asked during the eurogroup meeting if Greek banks would be able to open on Friday he answered: "Tomorrow, yes. Monday, I don't know."

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