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19th Aug 2022

'Mini summit' on Greece raises eyebrows in Brussels

  • Merkel and Hollande will hold a 'mini summit', which made Belgian PM Michel (right, behind Hollande) "angry". (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

A select company is meeting in the margins of Thursday's (19 March) EU summit to discuss Greece, but the 'mini summit' has made some waves among eurozone government leaders.

The leaders of the two largest economies in the eurozone, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande, are meeting with Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras to discuss Greece's debt obligations.

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EU president Donald Tusk, who chairs Thursday and Friday's summit, will also be present, as are central bank president Mario Draghi and Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

However, some EU government leaders expressed discontent about not being invited.

“I'm angry”, said Belgian prime minister Charles Michel before entering the building where the summit takes place in Brussels.

“I did not give France or Germany a mandate to negotiate in the name of Belgians. That is unacceptable”, noted Michel, whose country is one of the 19 EU countries that uses the euro.

Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel was less vocal, but also expressed discontent.

“I would have liked to be there”, he said about the meeting.

For his part, Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb was conciliatory

“Mini summit is a big word. We talk with colleagues left and right”, he said before the summit started.

“I have confidence in France and Germany”, Stubb added, speaking in German.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte also did not mind not being part of the meeting, but did note that “all these extra meetings delay the process, which is to execute the plan”, he said, referring to the deal made between Greece and the Eurogroup on 20 February.

"It's good that everybody can listen to what Tsipras has to say. But it's probably better that he doesn't talk to all 28 leaders," because some of them could be less conciliatory, said a source close to one of the participants in the meeting.

Some government leaders wanted the president of the European Parliament to be present at the meeting, something that would have diluted the sense of large member states' views counting more than others.

Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann has said that it "bothers" him that Martin Schulz was not invited.

"When the institutions are represented ... at least one representative should be from the parliament", said Faymann.

During the summit "several prime ministers" said that he should attend, Schulz told press afterwards.

The EP president would not specify which countries had asked for his presence, but rather concentrated on the fact that his presence was requested at all.

“There were prime ministers that said the president of the Parliament should take part. That's progress”, he noted.

“Until today, it was only I who made such suggestions”.

While Schulz will not take part in the mini summit, he made light of not being invited by Tusk. “His life is not easy. I did not want to make his life more difficult”, he said about Tusk, adding that he did “not feel offended”.

“My relationship with Donald Tusk is excellent. We are even friends”, he said.

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