German, French and eurozone officials discuss program; Athens plays down talks

Greek Finance Ministry sources played down on Friday the significance of revelations about a meeting this week between German, French and European Union officials to discuss concerns about the course of Greece’s bailout.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that representatives of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, senior eurozone officials and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble as well as his French counterpart, Pierre Moscovici, took part in the meeting, which was held in Brussels on Monday following a gathering of the Eurogroup.

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras did not participate in the talks. Finance Ministry sources, however, said that the meeting was not “secret” as was suggested in the report. They said that Athens knew about the talks and that it is customary for such discussions to take place on the sidelines of Eurgroup meetings.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the purpose of the meeting to which Stournaras was not invited was to discuss the structural reforms that the troika wants Greece to implement and a financing gap for the second half of this year that is expected to reach as much as 6 billion euros. No decisions were taken at the meeting, the newspaper reported, quoting unnamed sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

European Commission sources told Kathimerini that the aim of the meeting was simply to update those taking part on the state of play in Greece and is not a sign that there is any particular concern with the program. Nevertheless, the precise date of the troika’s return to Athens remains uncertain. It is thought that inspectors may fly back around February 10 but this has not been confirmed.

With regards to the funding gap, the government has made proposals for how this could be covered but they have so far been blocked by the ECB as they involved rolling over bonds held by Greek banks and national central banks in the eurozone.