Friday's Eurogroup in Malta is expected to reveal whether there will be a breakthrough in Greece’s months-long bailout talks with creditors or a renewed period of ominous uncertainty will be ushered in.
If there is no progress on Friday then talks will drag on, as will the freeze on the latest bailout loan tranche, essentially undermining the Greek economy’s chances of recovery. Furthermore, the prospect of a default will loom as the country will struggle to make a large debt repayment in July.
However, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared optimistic on Thursday. Speaking at an inauguration ceremony for a new tunnel in Tempi, central Greece, he said that the conclusion of the second review of the country’s third bailout is at hand, and struck a defiant tone with regard to the government’s critics.
“The review’s conclusion is very close whether some people like it or not,” he said, adding, moreover, that the discussion about measures to reduce Greece’s mountainous debt will be completed in April, signaling his belief that one of Athens’s key demands will be met.
“We will not back down in the final stretch,” he said, hinting that the government has already decided what concessions it will make to clinch a deal.
Tsipras also appeared – after a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel – to have backed down from a call he made earlier in the week to European Council President Donald Tusk for a special summit to be held if no agreement is reached.
But given the number of deadlines set and missed by the government to reach a deal, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos was careful not to raise the expectations bar too high ahead of today’s meeting.
“Both the Greek side and its partners are on a convergence course. However, given the developments in recent weeks, no one can exclude the possibility that there will be a snag, which will serve someone’s political designs,” he said, alluding to remarks this week by Tsipras, who accused unnamed European creditors and the International Monetary Fund of “moving the goalposts” each time a deal was close.
Talks have stumbled repeatedly on creditors’ demands for new pension cuts, labor reforms and a lowering of tax threshold.
IMF spokesman Gerry Rice on Friday told reporters that there has been progress but that “important issues remain outstanding.”