NEWS

EU mulling secret plan B for Greece, sources say

ELENI VARVITSIOTIS

TAGS: Politics, EU, Economy

In the wake of last week’s Eurogroup impasse, European officials are mulling a plan B for Greece that would sideline the International Monetary Fund, curb debt relief and reduce the need for austerity after 2019, Kathimerini understands.

According to sources, European officials have already started discussing an alternative plan that could be put into effect in the fall, after September elections in Germany, which have made Berlin cautious of any politically contentious moves.

The plan being considered would ensure that the IMF is no longer in the “driving seat of the Greek bailout program,” the sources said, adding that it would offer Greece less debt relief than it had hoped for but also less austerity in 2019 onward, after the current bailout has expired.

That would mean Athens could revoke some of the tough austerity measures it pushed through Parliament last month. The pension cuts and tax increases are due to come into effect in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

However, a worse deal for Greece as regards debt relief would be a hard sell for the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has basically reneged on all pre-election promises and is keen to deliver something concrete with respect to the country’s debt. His government has already started shifting its narrative away from an insistence on a “comprehensive solution on the debt” to a “solution that will pave the way for accessing the markets.”

Athens is still expected to make one last push for a deal at a Eurogroup summit on June 15. According to sources, Tsipras will aim to broach the issue at a subsequent summit of European Union leaders on June 22 if no solution transpires at the Eurogroup, as is expected. The Greek leader has already secured the support of French President Emmanual Macron for such a discussion to take place, sources say.

Earlier this week German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble hit out at Tsipras, claiming the leftist premier has not shifted the burden of austerity away from poorer Greeks as he had pledged and that party influence in the public administration has increased, not decreased, during his time in government.

Tsipras did not respond in person but a government source issued a terse response. “The responsibility of Schaeuble in managing the Greek crisis has been recorded historically,” the source said. “There is no point in his ascribing it to others.”

Online