NEWS

Tusk rejects Tsipras's summit request but Dijsselbloem says Eurogroup may be held soon

TAGS: Politics, Diplomacy, Economy

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due to speak to European Council President Donald Tusk again on Thursday after the latter rejected his call on Wednesday for a leaders’ summit to discuss Greece’s bailout talks and with a potential agreement between Athens and the institutions hanging in the balance.

The negotiations over a mechanism for identifying and implementing an extra 2 percent of gross domestic product in fiscal measures, on top of the 3 percent of GDP already agreed, continued in Athens on Wednesday and European officials insist that hopes of finding a compromise so a meeting of eurozone finance ministers can be held in the coming days should not be ruled out.

Speaking on Wednesday night, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that Greece and the institutions are “getting close to a deal” on the contingency measures.

His comment came after Alternate Finance Minister Giorgos Houliarakis held talks with the creditors’ representatives in Athens. There was no breakthrough during the meeting, which lasted around an hour and a half.

Dijsselbloem said there may be a meeting of eurozone finance ministers next week or the week after and that he will use the coming days to work on a solution for Greece’s debt issue.

After his conversation with Tsipras on Wednesday, Tusk also indicated that the Greek bailout review could be concluded in the days to come.

“We have to avoid situation of renewed uncertainty for Greece,” tweeted Tusk after speaking to the Greek prime minister. “We need date for Eurogroup meeting in not distant future. In days, not weeks.”

The Greek government believes that there is support for its position. It pointed to comments attributed to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who reportedly argued that the package of contingent measures being demanded of Greece are unreasonable and unconstitutional.

The president of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella, also expressed his opposition to the standby measures.

“We cannot ask Greece to take additional measures,” he said. “This would mean that some ‘hawks’ want to kill Greece and we cannot allow this blackmail. The stakes are too high for Europe. “If the Eurogroup cannot find a way out, despite the efforts of the European Commission, then the political leadership of Europe should take the lead at an extraordinary Euro Summit next week.”

This view was echoed by Roberto Gualtieri, the chair of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, who said it was “difficult to justify” the demand for the extra measures given that Greece produced a 0.7 percent of gross domestic product primary surplus in 2015.

“I strongly urge negotiations to be resumed on the basis of the Greek proposal [for a fiscal mechanism] and Eurogroup to be called in the next days to conclude the first review, and to address the issue of debt relief,” he said. “If this is not possible, then the EU political leadership should take over the necessary responsibilities.”

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