Tuesday

23rd Jan 2018

Eurogroup breaks up with no agreement on Greece

  • Greek PM Alexis Tsipras (l) and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met early on Monday in Brussels. A euro leaders summit is still to take place Monday evening (Photo: European Commission)

Eurozone finance ministers met briefly on Monday (22 June) to discuss Greece but broke off with no agreement, due to confusion and timing of the Athens’ latest proposals.

Eurozone ministers are instead expected to meet later this week but a summit of euro leaders will still take place on Monday evening.

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Heading into the special eurogroup meeting, finance ministers lined up to criticise Athens and downplay the likelihood of a breakthrough that would see Greece get the remaining €7.2bn in bailout money ahead of a 30 June deadline.

Shortly after the meeting started Finnish finance minister Alex Stubb tweeted: "Eurogroup ends. Work continues. Institutions assess proposals."

But the signs that it could end up a fruitless gathering were already apparent before it started.

Going into the meeting Stubb spoke of wasting "air miles" while his Irish counterpart Michael Noonan said "we're still not quite clear what the actual proposals are".

The confusion came about after it emerged that Greece had sent two versions of its latest proposals to creditors early on Monday morning, leaving little time for technical experts to form a view, and in turn to give that assessment to finance ministers.

This led to a situation where EU economic affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici was early Monday speaking about proposals that were a "good basis" for progress while German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, in the early afternoon, said "the situation has not changed since Thursday" (when euro finance minister last met).

"I don't know of any new proposals," said Schaueble.

Speaking after the meeting, eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said: “Yes there were two versions” adding that “ministers would have liked to have had (the proposals) earlier”.

Technical experts were “unable to give us a full and in-depth assessment, so they gave us a first impression.”

But he sounded a more positive note by saying that the proposals are “broad and comprehensive”.

In general terms, he said, Greece’s creditors have said the proposals are a basis for negotiations.

While Monday’s meetings had been billed in the last few days as last-chance meetings for Greece, by this morning France and Germany were already playing down expectations.

President Francois Hollande said a deal on Monday "would be better" but if one is not reached then the "foundation" needs to be set for a deal later this week. Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that "there are still a lot of days in the week in which decisions can be taken".

But despite their calm reactions, there are real fears about the rate of withdrawals from Greek banks and about the possibility of Greece defaulting on the money it owes to the IMF at the end of the month.

Euro leaders are this evening set to have a general discussion on Greece with all eyes watching for a political signs of commitment to keeping the debt-ridden country in the eurozone.

Meanwhile all EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday of this week - setting a second natural deadline for agreement.

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