20th Mar 2019

EU offers €2bn in unspent aid to Greece

  • Greek PM Alexis Tsipras is under pressure to present a concrete list of reform in order to free up bailout money (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The EU is to send Greece €2bn this year to be used to combat the country's social crisis, while a mini-meeting to discuss the country's problems is being hailed as having cleared the air after a fractious few weeks.

EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker Friday (20 March) said Greece has a "humanitarian crisis" and that he has asked euro commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis to look into how the money - unused development funds - can be better "absorbed" by the country.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Speaking after an EU summit in Brussels, he said the money was "not intended for the coffers of the Greek state" but to establish "social cohesion", focussing on young unemployed people and "encouraging" small businesses.

"This money is available. And it is not being used actually, which is a problem. And difficult to justify to Greeks and Europeans," said Juncker, noting that the country will have a co-financing rate of five percent, rather than the normal 15-percent rate.

Greek leader Alexis Tsipras, who came to the summit following days of sniping between Athens and its eurozone partners, said the €2bn represented a "good outcome" and that a mini-meeting along with the French and German leaders meant he was leaving Brussels in a more "optimistic" mood.

His interpretation of the meeting was backed up by EU council president Donald Tusk, who late Thursday evening gathered the three leaders plus the presidents of the European Commission, European Central Bank and Eurogroup around one table to try and calm tensions.

"I am quite satisfied," said Tusk, noting the meeting had served as a "reality check" for everyone.

It was a reality check for the "Greek prime minister when it comes to his expectations of immediate help. And also for the side of the [EU] institutions, like President Juncker and myself. We understand much better how critical the political situation is in Greece".

"Trust is the foundation in this very complex process of negotiations," he said.

Tusk predicted that on-the-ground work in Athens "will be much easier because we are more realistic".

After the mini meeting, Tusk's office released a short statement saying that policy talks will take place in Brussels and a "fact-finding mission" will take place in Athens. The careful language caters to the Greek government's sensitivities about having control over the situation.

Athens has been under pressure to provide a concrete list of reforms the country will undertake in return for the next tranche of bailout money.

Tsipras, who was elected January on an end-to-austerity ticket, has been struggling to reconcile the demands of his far-left backbenchers and an expectant Greek population, with the demands of his eurozone colleagues.

Recent days have seen an escalation in the war of words particularly between Athens and Berlin.

Part of the summit's negotiation means that it has been spelt out that Greece can choose what reforms it will make.

"The Greek authorities will have the ownership of the reforms which means that the Greek government has the opportunity to pick individual reforms that are still outstanding as of 10th December and replace them by other reforms," said German chancellor Angela Merkel.

"All of it has to add up financially speaking," she added.

She said she does not expect the reforms list, which is meant to be drawn up by Athens "in the next days", to be given to her on Monday when she meets Tsipras for bilateral talks in Berlin, but rather to the "institutions" - with Germany keen to avoid the perception that it is calling the shots in the eurozone.

Meanwhile, amid reports that savers over past weeks have been removing billions of euros from Greek bank accounts, Tsipras appealed to Greeks to trust their government.

"We ask the Greek people to keep cool," he said.


Still waiting for Greece, this WEEK

The long wait for the list of Greek reforms is due to end on Monday, but its government has missed deadlines before.


The euro-crisis and the Greek crisis

It was the Greeks who chose the politicians that led the country into disaster. But is it really as simple as that?

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: I will fight to the 'last hour' for orderly Brexit
  2. EU affairs ministers demand Brexit clarity from London
  3. Nordic MEP candidates in first ever joint EU election debate
  4. UK announces EEA trade deal ahead of EU summit
  5. Four European cities among world's most expensive
  6. Violent 'yellow vest' protesters ban in Paris
  7. Russia celebrates fifth anniversary of Crimea annexation
  8. Blow for May as third vote on Brexit deal ruled out


Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  2. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance
  3. EU rolls out €525m for military projects, but bars illegal tech
  4. May to seek Brexit extension amid UK 'constitutional crisis'
  5. Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides
  6. My plan for defending rule of law in EU
  7. Anti-corruption lawyer wins first round of Slovak elections
  8. The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us