22nd May 2019

'Don't expect any deals' on Greece today

  • Dijsselbloem: 'perhaps we were too optimistic to think a complete reform of the pension system would be finished in a couple of months time' (Photo: Dutch Government/Valerie Kuypers)

Finance ministers of the eurozone are gathering in Amsterdam Friday (22 April) to hear about Greece's progress on reforms, and possibly start a debate on debt relief, a condition the International Monetary Fund has set for joining the country's third bailout package.

“I'm hearing good news from Athens, so let's see where we are,” Eurogroup president and Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Friday morning.

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

  • Eurozone ministers meet in Amsterdam's naval museum, with a view of a replica of an 18th century ship of the Dutch East India Company (Photo: Dutch Government/Valerie Kuypers)

“If we make progress on the content of the programme, and the next steps, then we need to start a discussion on debt. But we're only at he beginning of that discussion. So don't expect any deals today.”

Dijsselbloem referred to a promise made to Greece in 2012 that if it had carried out all reforms, it could get “if necessary” debt relief. However, in an interview broadcast Thursday evening on Dutch television, Dijsselbloem noted that absolution for any of Greece's debts was not the table.

Greece's lenders are working on a review of Greek reforms, which needs to be signed off before a new tranche of loans can be transferred to Athens. There is no formal deadline, although it was already expected last year.

Speaking to Dutch press on Friday, Dijsselbloem said that “perhaps we were too optimistic to think a complete reform of the pension system would be finished in a couple of months time” since the bailout package was agreed in August 2015. He added that such reforms in his own country usually also take a long time.

“Sometimes you apply some time pressure to get progress,” he added.

One sign of the "good news from Athens" the Eurogroup president mentioned came Thursday when the EU's statistical body Eurostat announced new budget figures.

It emerged that in 2015, the Greek government had slightly more revenue than spending, when interest on debt is left out of the equation. This figure is called a country's primary surplus.

According to Eurostat, Greece had a primary surplus of 0.7 percent of GDP in 2015, which European Commission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt called “substantially better” than what was agreed.

Under the programme, Greece was not required to get a primary surplus yet last year, but was allowed a primary deficit of 0.25 percent. The 2016 target is a primary surplus of 0.5 percent.

But some are criticising Dijsselbloem and other European hardliners like Germany and Finland for sticking to “dogmas”.

Economist Paul De Grauwe, former advisor to the commission, told Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad this week Dijsselbloem “acts as if he has the moral high ground”, noting that both debtors and creditors have a responsibility.

De Grauwe said the risk of a Greek exit from the eurozone, or Grexit, is “as high” as 10 months ago.

EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker however disagrees with that notion.

He told Greek financial website that those who are restarting the Grexit debate “are playing with fire”.

“I don’t think for one second that it would be wise and intelligent to restart this debate. Grexit did not happen and will not happen,” he said in an interview published Wednesday.

In his interview on Thursday, Dijsselbloem praised the Greek government, which “changed its attitude” since last Summer, when the Greek debt crisis was at its height.

“My summer holiday was very short last year. We have to try and prevent that this year," he said.

Greece to force 'moment of truth' for creditors

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras travelled to Paris, Strasbourg and Brussels to gather support ahead of a week when he wants to force an agreement on the country's bailout programme.

Lenders press Greece to adopt conditional laws

New talks will take place on measures to be triggered if Greek finances are not good enough, in parallel with discussions on a review of Greek reforms and, for the first time, debt relief.

EU top court backs Canada trade deal in ruling

The European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that the EU-Canada free trade agreement, and its controversial dispute settlement mechanism, is in line with the bloc's rules.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll


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. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us