Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

Greece ready to pay debts, but flirting with Moscow

  • Greek prime minister Tsipras (c) might be in for a gas discount in Moscow on Wednesday (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Greece reassured its lenders on debt commitments over the Easter weekend, but is continuing to cast doubt on its long-term relationship with the EU ahead of a visit to Moscow by prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis met with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde in Washington on Sunday (5 April) and assured her that Greece would "meet all obligations to all its creditors, ad infinitum".

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Greece must repay a €450 million loan to the IMF on Thursday (9 April), amid fears that it would run out of money by that date.

Interior minister Nikos Voutsis warned earlier last week that if the country had to choose between paying the IMF back and paying salaries and pensions, it would choose the latter.

His declaration, suggesting that Greece could default, fueled speculations over contingency measures such as capital controls, nationalisation of banks, and issuance of IOUs to temporarily replace the euro.

But in an interview with Greek newspaper Naftemporiki, Varoufakis swept aside talks of default or Grexit.

"Anyone who examines such plans or discusses even their prospects offers very bad services to Europe," he said.

Varoufakis added that Greece now expects a funding agreement with its Eurozone partners on 24 April.

"At the Eurogroup [meeting] of April 24 there must be a preliminary conclusion [of the talks], as per the Eurogroup accord on February 20," he said, referring to an accord extending the €240 billion Greek bailout on condition that Greece presents a list of reforms.

The list was presented last Wednesday to the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. It will be discussed by Eurozone deputy finance ministers this week.

If it is satisfactory, it could then be validated at the next ordinary Eurogroup meeting on 24 April. Eurozone finance ministers would then unblock a €7.2 billion tranche of funds.

The list of reforms is said to include measures to fight tax evasion, privatisations of state assets, and labour reforms.

Greek government sources denied on Monday (6 April) that the list included an increase on VAT for touristic Greek Islands and that Lagarde had requested a cut in early retirement pensions.

"Our government is a reformist government, we are intent upon reforming Greece deeply," Varoufakis said in Washington.

But in his interview to Naftemporiki, the finance minister warned that Greece would not accept anything other that what it considers an "honorable agreement".

"We are not going to condemn the country, as previous governments did, to long-term credit squeeze by accepting terms and measures that guarantee such a prospect," he added.

Moscow visit

As if to demonstrate that it could find alternative solutions to a EU deadlock, Greece is openly nurturing links with Russia and China.

On Wednesday (8 April), prime minister Alexis Tsipras will meet Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

The two leaders will discuss relations between the European Union and Russia, tourism, energy, investment and trade.

Tsipras will is try to get an exemption for Greek fruits from the Russian ban against EU agricultural products.

Russia’s Kommersant daily reported on Tuesday that Russia could also offer Greece a discount on gas deliveries.

Sanctions and gas prices are two areas where Russia has been trying to weaken European unity.

Greece also proposed a three-year co-operation plan with China that would involve ports, ship building and repair, credit, supply chain and culture, according to Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

In his interview with Naftemporiki, Varoufakis defended the Greek "pivot" to Russia and China.

"As I have said several times before, the solution to the crisis of the Greek social economy is an issue for the European family and must be found within the EU framework," he said.

"Forging closer relations with countries outside Eurozone and the EU, which have common interests with Greece, and the will to promote them on the basis of cooperation and mutuality, is an entirely different chapter," he added.

At the same time, the Greek government is maintaining a tough line on the German war debt issue.

At a parliamentary committee meeting on Monday, deputy finance minister Dimitris Mardas estimated at €278.7 billion the amount Germany should pay to Greece as reparation for war crimes and repayment of a forced loan during World War II.

Germany has already rejected such claims. The issue has been a cause of tension between the two countries since Tsipras came to power in January.

Clock ticking as Greece continues talks with creditors

Talks between Greece and its creditors are continuing with just over a week to go before Greece is due to make a payment to the IMF and amid uncertainty over how much cash the government has left.

Time running out for Greece, warns euro commissioner

Time is running out for Greece to broker a compromise that will allow it unlock the remaining €7.2 billion in its EU-IMF bailout needed to avoid a default, the bloc’s eurozone commissioner has said.

News in Brief

  1. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  2. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections
  3. EU migration to UK at lowest since 2012
  4. MEP Andrieu will chair parliament pesticide committee
  5. Juncker's right-hand man warns of 'institutional blockage'
  6. Greek parliament to open probe on PMs and EU commissioner
  7. May gathers Brexit ministers to hammer out UK position
  8. Tajani asks Juncker for all EMA Brexit relocation documents

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  2. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  3. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  4. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court
  5. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums
  6. Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress
  7. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  8. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  2. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  4. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  5. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  6. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  9. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  11. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  12. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission