Mixed messages from Europe as Tsipras looks for political solution to bailout talks breakdown

Mixed messages from Europe as Tsipras looks for political solution to bailout talks breakdown

Athens, April 28, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Zacharias Petrou

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras contacted Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, on Wednesday to disuss the stalled Greek bailout program review.

European Union President Donald Tusk rejected Greece’s request for a leaders’ meeting, saying euro-area finance ministers should convene in the next few days to resolve disagreements on the nation’s bailout program.

“We have to avoid a situation of renewed uncertainty for Greece,” Tusk told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. “I am convinced that there is still more work to be done by the ministers of finance.”

According to Greek govenrment sources, Donald Tusk asked Alexis Tsipras to wait 24 hours before he submits his request for a Eurozone leaders’ Council meeting to be held to discuss the issue, in order for him to personally act towards the Eurogroup convening instead.

The Greek leader wants the summit to “ensure the implementation of last July’s agreement” between the country and its institutional creditors, after a break-down of negotiations in Athens between the Greek government and creditors’ representatives over the latest demand by creditors, namely, a 3.6-billion-euro “contingency package” in case Greece does not meet primary budget surplus targets through 2018.

Greek government sources attacked the International Monetary Fund for sabotaging the bailout review and making demands that are unconstitutional. According to Athens, European partners and key institutions have sided with the Tsipras administration on the issue of the additional set of measures.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has said that the contingency package of extra austerity measures for Greece demanded by creditors is unreasonable and unconstitutional, the German MNI agency reported, quoting unnamed sources.

According to Greek government sources, the statements of European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker are considered positive for Greece as he characterized the demands of the IMF “irrational”, adding that the demand for legislation of precautionary measures “would not be acceptable in any democratic country in the world”.

A similar statement was made by the President of the European Parliament Group of Socialists and Democrats, Gianni Pittella:

“We cannot ask of Greece to take additional measures. This means that some “hawks” want to kill off Greece. We cannot allow this blackmail. The issue is very important to Europe. We must all work for a crisis in Greece to be averted, with the referendum in Britain approaching, especially now that in extremely difficult circumstances, Greece has done very well with the primary surplus in 2015. If the Eurogroup cannot find a solution, despite the efforts of the European Commission, then the political leadership of Europe must assume a leading role in an extraordinary Eurozone leaders’ summit next week. We want a fair agreement for Greece that will also contain talks on debt relief”.

In the same vein, the Chairman of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament, has urgently convened the Working Group responible for monitoring the Greek program.

Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that the Eurogroup was in charge of reviewing the Greek bailout programme.

When asked if the euro zone’s heads of government and state should discuss Greece because the finance ministers could not find a solution, Schaeuble said: “The answer is no.”

“The Eurogroup is the Eurogroup. And it has its area of responsibilities and I’m not aware of anything else.”

Greece has proposed a permanent automatic correction mechanism of fiscal figures which, according to government officials, fully implements the principles laid down in the last Eurogroup; reliability, objectivity, automation, institutionalization. Furthermore, this mechanism guarantees the provision of last July’s agreement regarding the deviation from targets.

Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Chouliarakis held crisis talks with the high-ranking officials of the country’s creditor institutions who are still in Athens on Wednesday. After one and a half hours of talks – following a request by the Greek side – Chouliarakis did not make any comments to the press.

Government legal advisors also took part in the meeting. Local media suggest the Greek side has made a fresh, last-minute proposal in order to unblock the stalled negotiations over the additional measures demanded by creditors.

Meanwhile, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis called on PM Alexis Tsipras to step down, during his speech at the party’s inaugural political Committee meeting, Wednesday.

“The country cannot bear to go through last summer’s drama, it cannot bear the incompetent and irresponsible Prmie Minister any longer’, Mitsotakis stressed.

The Athens Stock Exchange dropped 2.51% to 584.55 basis points following the latest negative twist in Greece’s talks with creditors.