23rd Mar 2023

Juncker and Tsipras to hold 11th-hour bailout talks

  • Tsipras (2nd from left) and Juncker (3rd from left) in Riga last month

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras will meet European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker for dinner in Brussels on Wednesday evening (3 June) for what could be the last chance to strike a deal with creditors.

Juncker, who says that a Greek default and exit from the eurozone would be disastrous for the EU, is acting as a broker to help find middle ground.

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A final decision to unblock a €7.2 billion loan for Greece is to be taken by the Eurogroup, the club of eurozone finance ministers, in the coming days, but the path to an accord must first be cleared at the highest political level.

In the last few days, the Greek government and the international institutions behind its bailout - the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - have been fighting over what needs to be done.

"Many documents are being exchanged to clarify and implement the 20 February agreement," between Greece and its lenders, a commission spokeswoman said at the daily press briefing on Monday.

"The fact that documents are being exchanged is already a good sign”.

On Monday, Tsipras said Greece had "submitted a realistic plan for the country to get out of the crisis".

"The next days of the negotiation will be difficult, and what the Greek people are asking is for the government to overcome the difficulties in just and equal terms," he added, amid complaints by some Syriza MPs and supporters that he is making too many concessions.

But for his part, the president of the Eurogroup, Dutch hawk Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said the latest Greek offer is "really not enough".

"We're still nowhere far enough, that's the conclusion and time is pressing”, he said on Dutch television.

EU leaders appear decided to strike a deal this week, before a Friday deadline, when Greece is due to repay €300 million to the IMF, and before Sunday and Monday's G7 summit in Germany.

After a late night meeting in Berlin on Monday between Germany's Angela Merkel, France's Francois Hollande, Jean-Claude Juncker and the ECB and IMF chiefs, Greece's creditors readied their final terms.

"It [their package] covers all key policy areas and reflects the discussions of recent weeks. It will be discussed with Tsipras," a senior EU official said, quoted by Reuters.

The main blocking points remain pensions and the labour market.

Tsipras, in an article in Le Monde on Sunday, wrote that the level of pensions "resulting from the memorandum policy cannot be tolerated".

Meanwhile, the ECB, on Tuesday, again raised the level of the emergency liquidity available for Greek banks by €500 million, signaling a will not to precipitate a bank crisis in uncertain times.

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