20th Aug 2019

EU leaders avoid clash with Tsipras

  • Tsipras: Not blackmailing and not being blackmailed (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU leaders on Thursday (13 February) steered clear of confrontation with Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, deferring hard talks on Greece's bailout to finance ministers.

"Greece played only a minor role," German chancellor Angela Merkel said in a press conference after the summit.

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  • The Tsipras press conference was packed with journalists (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

"It was very friendly," she said about her encounter with Tsipras, who in the past has criticised her for being the architect of the austerity imposed on Greece.

"I congratulated him on his election and said I was fully prepared to work with him," Merkel added.

Other leaders made similar remarks.

EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker spoke of a “pleasant discussion, no conflicts or intemperate debates.”

He said the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers must see the “substance” of the Greek proposal on Monday to find out “what are the 70 percent [of the structural reforms] with which they are in agreement."

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has said they only agree with about 70 percent of the required reforms in the current bailout programme.

“Any measure which is cancelled must be replaced by a new measure, in the same budgetary period, of fiscal equivalence," said Juncker.

EU Council chief Donald Tusk said that Tsipras agreed with the head of the Eurgroup of finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, to ask the "institutions" (formerly known as the troika ) to work on a technical assessment on where Greece stands.

They also agreed "common language" referring to the current bailout and what the Greek government plans to do.

There was no agreement on Athens requesting an extension of the current bailout programme, which ends on 28 February, however.

This was the sticking point on Wednesday during a special Eurogroup on Greece.

Speaking to press after the summit, Tsipras dodged the question whether he would ask for such an extension at the next Eurogroup, which will take place on Monday in Brussels.

"We need to find common ground between the current programme and a bridge programme," he said.

He repeatedly said Greece isn't blackmailing anyone and won't let itself be blackmailed.

So far, his main achievement is the replacement of the term "troika" with "institutions" in reference to the three lenders - the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

Tsipras also said that Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy was "nervous" when Greece came up.

"He's wrong, there is no point in externalising domestic problems," Tsipras said, in reference to the far-left Podemos party, which, like his own Syriza party, may win upcoming Spanish elections.

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