5th Mar 2024

Greece blames EU and IMF for 'obstacles' in talks

  • Greek Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis expects next Eurogroup meeting to be "a fruitfull discussion" but with no deal. (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Greece took a publicly conciliatory line on bailout talks on Tuesday (6 May) but a leaked government paper blamed the stalling discussions on the EU and the International monetary fund.

In a document leaked to the press, a Greek government source said that "serious disagreements and contradictions between the IMF and the EU cause obstacles in the negotiations and generate high risks".

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The statement comes ahead of another meeting of euro finance ministers - the Eurogroup - on Monday (11 May) which is widely expected to lead to no deal on releasing part or all of a €7.2bn loan to Greece.

"The IMF sets its red lines on reforms, particularly with regard to pensions and labour market, while it seems flexible as far as the primary surplus is concerned. At the back of the IMF’s thoughts lies the debt relief, so that this one becomes viable," the unofficial paper said.

"On the contrary, the European Commission has set its red lines on the primary surplus and, consequently, the non-remission of the debt and seems flexible on tough reforms, such as pensions and labour market regulation,” it continued.

It said the “strategic disagreement” between the two institutions was to the “detriment” of Greece and that Athens would not yet table the key ‘omnibus bill’.

The "omnibus bill" was a supposed to include measures agreed with Greece’s lenders in the so-called Brussels Group which started last Thursday (30 April).

It should have been presented to the Greek parliament before next week’s Eurogroup meeting to show Greece’s commitment to reforms.

According to the document, the Greek government also intends "to put on the negotiation table the ‘day after’, that is to say the plan to return to the markets and finance its development from next June onwards".

The paper is at odds with statements by officials in Brussels who were busy welcoming “constructive talks” on reforms.

Finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici ruled out Tuesday any discussion on "the day after" before the conclusion of the current talks.

"We have to proceed step by step. We have the basis for a plan, we are making solid progress on reforms, we should not step over this stage," he told reporters just before meeting Greek Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

Moscovici also indicated that he did not expect a breakthrough at Monday’s Eurogroup, saying the meeting will be “decisive without being conclusive”.

Varoufakis, for his part, said: "We are certainly going to have a fruitful discussion on May 11 that will confirm the great progress that has been achieved and will be yet another move, yet another step, in the direction of a final agreement.”

Meanwhile, technical talks will continue in Brussels and are expected to end this Wednesday.

Experts from the Commission, the European central bank, the IMF and the European Stability Mechanism – the bailout fund - are making their Greek interlocutors “realise what they have to do”, a source with knowledge of the discussions told EUobserver.

The Greek government elected in January "did not know the commitments taken by the previous government," the source said. "It is realising there are some good policies to implement."

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