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Patience with Greece running out, says Slovakia's Kazimir

Greece’s euro-area partners are fed up with the government’s intransigence and are united in demanding that Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras spells out how he plans to break the deadlock, Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kazimir said.

Exasperation with the Greek government has brought the bloc together in a way that has rarely been seen before, Kazimir, 46, said in an interview Thursday in his office in Bratislava, his country’s capital.

“We are running out of patience and the willingness to discuss these issues again and again -- we feel this approach isn’t going anywhere,” Kazimir said. “We aren’t convinced that the Greek government is playing with open cards, whether it isn’t pursuing different scenarios.”

Tsipras is meeting with European Union leaders this evening to end a stand-off over extending financial aid for the country, a situation that Kazimir likened to a “Cold War environment.” Bond yields jumped to their highest in almost two years after the European Central Bank granted Greek officials only part of their request for more emergency funding. The country could run out of money this month as debt payments and monthly salaries and pensions come due.

Greece is hoping to reach a political deal at the summit to unlock the next tranche of funds from the country’s 240 billion- euro ($255 billion) bailout package. Kazimir said his recommendation for Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was to avoid such political bargaining. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier Thursday that Greece shouldn’t expect a breakthrough at the leaders’ meeting.

“I’ve been going to Brussels since 2006 and I have never seen so much unity” on how to address the cash-strapped member state, Kazimir said.

‘Politics, Fiction’

While keeping Greece in the currency bloc remains the baseline scenario and there’s “no will, no processes” for the currency union’s breakup, Kazimir said the country’s administration needs to “stop with politics and fiction.”

The government led by Syriza, which won the January elections on pledges to end austerity, must provide verifiable data on its finances and stop taking unilateral measures that would worsen its fiscal health, he said.

“There’s too much politics in the process and almost no economic rationale,” Kazimir said “We have almost no information about the fiscal outlook for the next few months.”

Euro-area finance ministers on Feb. 20 extended the Greek bailout by four months. The agreement also allowed Greece to lower previously agreed targets on reaching a primary budget surplus, potentially freeing up some money to meet at least some of Tsipras’s election pledges.

The country next faces an April deadline to convince euro- area and International Monetary Fund experts that it will meet aid conditions as promised, a move that would allow it to tap its remaining bailout funds.

“We refuse to be polite anymore and refrain from commenting,” Kazimir said. “Most of the trust is gone. This is a raised finger that someone in Athens should take notice of.”

[Bloomberg]

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