Thursday

20th Feb 2020

Tsipras keen to put Greece on EU summit agenda

  • Greek PM Alexis Tsipras wants to talk politics with his EU partners. (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Greece and the EU are sizing each other up ahead of Thursday (19 March) European council, while questions remain about the true state of Greek finances.

Greek prime minister "Tsipras needs money", said Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament, in an interview to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung at the weekend.

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  • The true state of Greece's finances is still at the heart of the discussions between Greece and its lenders. (Photo: European Community)

While in Brussels last Friday (13 March), Alexis Tsipras told Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and Schulz, that he feared his country would run out of liquidity at the end of the month, according to the German daily.

Greece is due to repay a total of €6 billion in loans in March.

It has so far met all the deadlines, with a latest €580 million payment made this Monday.

On Sunday night, Tsipras said that Greece has "absolutely no problem with liquidity".

The issue, however, is slowing the technical discussions that Greece needs to complete before a political agreement to unblock a first part of the €7.2 billion loan extension agreed by the Eurogroup on 20 February.

Talks resumed this Monday in Athens between experts of the so-called Brussels Group about implementation of the reforms asked from Greece by the agreement.

The Brussels Group consists of representatives from the troika (EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) and the Greek government as well as experts from the European stability mechanism, the Eurozone bailout fund.

Greek daily Kathimerini reports that little progress was made during last week’s talks and that the Greek delegation was asked to come back with more detailed data on the country’s public finances.

On Monday, Tsipras tried to shift the discussion from technical experts to EU leaders in an attempt to focus more on his propositions than on his country's finances.

"The issue will be solved at a political level by the end of the week in the run up to the EU summit, or, if necessary, at the EU summit (itself)," he said in an interview with Greek daily To Ethnos.

But Tsipras’ partners are not ready to discuss the issue.

"We cannot push up the discussion to the top level while experts are in Athens looking at what is going on. It’s the Brussels Group that sets the tone," said a EU official on Monday.

"Tsipras went back to Athens with messages" after his visit to Brussels, said the official. "He knows what he has to do: be more focused on the list of measurable and verifiable reforms."

Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, has ruled out any talk on Greece on Thursday.

"Can you imagine in the worst moment discussions between chancellor [Angela Merkel] and prime minister Tsipras? It would be useless," he said in an interview to six European newspapers Monday, referring to recent war of words over German reparations to Greece for Nazi crimes.

But a few days after German finance minister talks of a "Grexident", Greece leaving the Euro by accident after a political fallout, Tsipras is maintaining a hard line, interpreted as a domestic message for his core electorate.

"Whatever obstacles we may encounter in our negotiating effort, we will not return to the policies of austerity," he said.

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