Plan nearly lost in translation

Brussels and Athens both refuted on Wednesday suggestions that there would be a discussion about extending Greece’s existing fiscal adjustment program at today’s Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers. Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis even reiterated in an interview that Athens and its creditors will have a special relationship for a transitional period lasting six to 12 months.

The confusion arose from a mistranslation in a document that Eurogroup head and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem forwarded to his country’s parliament on Wednesday. It was originally thought the document referred to the existing program, while in fact it wrote that the Eurogroup may also discuss what the follow-up to the current program will be.

It added that “the options for the follow-up to the current program will also depend on Greece’s access to the credit markets,” and made it clear that no decision is expected on this issue at Thursday’s Eurogroup.

The scenario of extending the existing program had been examined by the creditors in the past, but according to government officials it was rejected some time ago.

It is no coincidence that Hardouvelis stressed in his interview with Reuters on Wednesday that Greece will continue to have the support of the eurozone for an additional period that will be transitional, and that a safety cushion will be created in case the country cannot draw funds from the markets – i.e. a precautionary credit line.

“Greece will continue to have the support of the European partners. They may not be co-drivers in the car but they are safe in the back seat and you have a buffer in case something negative happens that you can draw on,” Hardouvelis told Reuters before stressing that Greece wants the International Monetary Fund involved, but only as a lesser partner with the eurozone.

“We would like the IMF to be involved in the sense of giving confidence to the market that they are watching us a little bit,” Hardouvelis stated. “The exact IMF relationship is something that is under discussion. In our view, we would like the EU to have the upper hand on this.”

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