Eurogroup meeting on Greece ends fruitless

Eurogroup meeting on Greece ends fruitless

A Eurogroup meeting ended in Brussels on Thursday evening without reaching an agreement on the crucial bailout program review and with no agreed schedule for the return of creditors to Athens.

Eurozone Finance Ministers sent a clear message to their Greek counterpart, urging the country’s government to legislate fiscal measures that would secure primary surplus targets beyond 2018 will be met.

An official Eurogroup statement read: “The Eurogroup urged the Greek authorities and the institutions to swiftly resume negotiations to agree on a policy reform package shared by all stakeholders. Such an agreement is a condition for the successful conclusion of the second review […] the reforms concern Greece’s labor and product markets, its energy sector and other areas. An agreement on Greece’s medium-term fiscal strategy, i.e. in 2018 and beyond, is also expected”.

A letter by Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was not enough to convince his counterparts to sign off on the conclusion of the program review. Athens suggested the primary surplus targets should be reexamined while creditors made clear that these should be kept at 3.8 percent beyond 2018.

Eurogroup president, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said he had received assurances from the International Monetary Fund that it still wants to take part in the Greek bailout program, calling its participation “non-negotiable”.

The Eurozone official also stated that outstanding issues should be settled swiftly in order for creditors to return to Athens for direct talks imminently.

Greek Finance Minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, said at the meeting “you cannot demand a country legislate something that it will do (after) 2019 […] European and democratic values are sidelined as a result.”

On his part, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble insisted that Athens must meet its obligations while, EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici appeared reassuring, referring to a “good discussion” in the Eurogroup that allowed for future steps with “optimism”, while merely adding that a decision on when negotiators will return to Athens will come soon.

Greek government sources rejected suggestions made in earlier press reports that Greece was isolated during the Eurogroup meeting and even appeared to have lost the long-standing support of the European Commission./ΙΒΝΑ