Monday

21st Jan 2019

EU and IMF in effort to unblock Greek bailout talks

  • Germany's Schaeuble (l), IMF's Lagarde (c) and Netherlands' Dijssoelbloem (r), with Ireland's Noonan. The EU and the IMF are still at odds on Greek debt. (Photo: Council of the EU)

Finance ministers from the main eurozone countries are expected to meet International Monetary Fund (IMF) negotiators on Friday (25 November) in an effort to reach an agreement on the Greek bailout early December.

The meeting, as reported by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Tuesday, will take place in Berlin and will involve ministers from Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Netherlands, IMF officials as well as officials from the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB).

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

The aim of the talks will be to find a common position ahead of a Eurogroup meeting on 5 December when eurozone finance ministers aim to close the second review of the Greek bailout programme, in order to unblock a new tranche of aid to Athens.

Discussions on the review in Athens between Greece and experts from the creditor institutions were suspended on Monday and will continue at a technical level by teleconference. They are blocked on the issues of labour market reform and the fiscal targets for Greece.

Creditors in particular oppose Greek plans to reintroduce collective bargaining, a mechanism to set minimum wages and negotiate lay offs. They also diverge on the level of the budgetary surplus Greece should reach from 2018, or on the measures to be taken to reach it.

"Had it been the Europeans, we'd have had an agreement by now," a Greek government source said on Tuesday, pointing at divergences between European creditors and the IMF.

Europeans say that Greece can reach a 3.5 percent surplus from 2018 with the measures already agreed. The IMF says the target is too high, or that additional measures must be taken to reach it.

"Sometimes it gets too political," the source said, adding that he hoped Greece and its creditors would be able to conclude the review "quickly", in time for the 5 December Eurogroup meeting.

Early November, the European Commission vice-president for the euro, Valdis Dombrovskis, said Greece "was broadly on track" to meet the bailout requirements.

"The programme is working for the first time," the Greek official pointed out. "We would find it very strange if we had a deadlock."

He said "the problem would be to have delays again" and warned that they would jeopardise the country's stability and investors' trust.

Beyond the surplus discussions and the review, the main stake of the meeting will be to secure the IMF's participation to the programme after the end of the year.

The fund said it would stay on board if it considered Greek debt sustainable in the long term. It has called for debt relief measures.

The European institutions say Greek debt is sustainable, and under German pressure have so far refused to commit to long-term debt relief.

Friday's Berlin meeting is expected to bridge differences and lay the ground for the "complete package" required by the IMF: a second review that includes fiscal target and adequate measures so to ensure debt sustainability.

The meeting will be held without Greek representatives, but authorities in Athens insist that the onus is on the IMF and Germany.

"We didn't ask the IMF to be in the programme. It's up to them to decide whether they like it or not," the Greek source said, adding that it was "not our job to have a back-up plan" for the review.

"We're optimistic that everybody will stick to what has been agreed [in 2015]," he said.

"We understand internal political situations but we cannot wait for the next elections in Germany," he added, referring to Germany's opposition to debt relief.

EU and IMF agree debt relief for Greece

Greece's creditors will take measures to reduce the cost of debt repayment and for the first time say debt could be reduced in the future. They also decided a €10-billion new loan.

Watchdog urges creation of EU bad bank

EU growth is being held back by more than €1 trillion of bad loans, its banking regulator said, comparing the eurozone to 1990s Japan.

EU agrees on debt measures for Greece

Measures to reduce the cost of Greek debt will be implemented immediately, but eurozone finance ministers said more action will have to be taken for a new agreement on the bailout programme.

Opinion

Lenders seek to undermine Greek workers' rights

As focus turns to negotiations between Greece and lenders over a new loan package, both the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund seem determined to press for further reforms, undermining trade unions, workers' rights, and collective bargaining agreements.

News in Brief

  1. May U-turn on fee for EU nationals in UK
  2. French data watchdog gives Google €50m fine
  3. EU hits Russians with sanctions over Salisbury attack
  4. 'Don't look for answers to Brussels', EU tells UK
  5. Germany warns UK not to 'misuse' EU patience on Brexit
  6. Germany sent 8,658 asylum-seekers to other EU states
  7. Poll: Macron popularity up four percent
  8. 'Economy is broken' says Oxfam in global inequality report

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us