Eurogroup ‘unimpressed’ with Greece debt talks

Eurogroup chief says not enough progress made at debt talks with Greece and that there will be no half-way compromises.


Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said he was unimpressed with the progress made in debt talks with Greece, after Athens claimed to have submitted a “realistic” plan to its creditors.

“There is some progress, but it’s really not enough,” Dijsselbloem said on Tuesday to Dutch television.

The Greece talks aimed at unlocking 7.2bn euros in remaining bailout funds and helping Athens make a critical repayment on Friday.

“We’re still nowhere far enough, that’s the conclusion and time is pressing,” said Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch finance minister.

Earlier on Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had raised hope of a breakthrough after four months of fractious talks.

“Last night a complete plan was submitted… a realistic plan to take the country out of the crisis,” Tsipras told reporters in Athens.

“We have made concessions because a negotiation demands concessions, we know these concessions will be difficult,” the leader of the country’s left-wing Syriza government admitted.

In Brussels, the EU called the exchange of documents a positive step but stopped short of confirming it had received Greece’s reform plan.

“Many documents are being exchanged between the institutions and the Greek authorities… The fact that documents are being exchanged is a good sign,” European Commission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt said.

The Greek government said the proposals were in line with a column Tsipras wrote and was published in France’s Le Monde daily on Monday.

In it Tsipras defended his government’s determination to bolster labour rights in a country staggering under massive unemployment.

Tsipras added that his administration would implement a series of privatisations that it had previously opposed, and reform the value added tax system as well as the pension system.

“I am confident, I believe the political leadership of Europe will approach our positions with respect and join the side of realism,” Tsipras said.

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A ‘final proposal’

The move came as the chiefs of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank met with the leaders of Germany and France and the head of the European Commission on Monday to reportedly come up with a “final proposal” to put to Athens.

A government source told AFP that a 46-page draft agreement had been submitted, but declined to go into further detail.

Dijsselbloem said that while there could be some concessions on the bailout package, there would be no half-way compromises.

“The bottom line is not that we can meet each other halfway, the whole package must be solid,” he told RTL television.

The creditors in Europe and the IMF are pushing for greater reforms in return for the cash, which Greece’s anti-austerity government has refused to match.

Greece is staring at a Friday deadline to repay more than 300mn euros to the IMF. Overall it needs to repay the global lender some 1.6bn euros this month, funds it currently lacks.

But Dijsselbloem said it was impossible for bailout payments to resume this week, although the Eurogroup is reportedly mulling some kind of possible temporary aid for Greece.


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