Athens, February 12, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Lefteris Yallouros
A crucial eurogroup summit for Greece ended without agreement in the early hours of Thursday.
Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said during a short press conference: “We discussed the possibility of an extension for Greece. For some people, that was the preferred option, but we haven’t come to that conclusion yet. We need a political decision before the financial institutions can get to work. We might make the final progress we need at next Monday’s eurogroup meeting”.
European Commission president Pierre Moscovici revealed that some progress was made, towards understanding each other’s position, adding that there was goodwill on both sides.
Greek government sources maintained that there could be no extension of the deeply unpopular bailout but denied talks have broken down or that the government will eventually have to accept defeat in order to avoid default.
Negotiations will continue with the goal of achieving a mutually beneficial agreement, an official statement read, adding that the Greek side had put forward well-founded arguments as to why the bailout accord had failed, enlightening listeners on Greece’s problems of public debt and the humanitarian crisis it has also suffered.
Arriving at the Eurogroup, Varoufakis exchanged only a couple of words with reporters, who asked him whether a possible Greek exit from the eurozone was on the cards. “Absolutely not,” he said.
On her arrival, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said she had had “constructive” talks with Varoufakis. “They are competent, intelligent, they’ve thought about their issues,” Lagarde told reporters of the Greek delegation. “We have to listen to them, we are starting to work together and it is a process that is starting and is going to last a certain time,” she said.
Asked about his expectations from the talks, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said, “It all depends on Mr Varoufakis and what he brings to the table.” In a light dig at the objection of Greek government officials to troika auditors, Schaeuble said, “The troika will continue implementing the Greek program, which we obviously won’t be able to call the troika anymore.”
Earlier on Wednesday, thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki to support the government’s effort to have the memorandum scrapped.
The support of the Greek citizens will boost the government and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who is due to take part in his first European Union leaders’ summit on Thursday, eager to show that Greece is committed to economic reforms as well as honoring financial obligations.
Athens believes the first eurogroup meeting was not at all damaging to Greek hopes of terminating the current bailout deal and securing better terms for a fresh agreement. While a deal might go to the wire (being the regular Eurogroup meeting of February 16), the Greek government is hoping to build on ongoing talks and ultimately win time and space to implement a set of policies aimed at supporting those most hit by years of austerity.