ECONOMY

EU will listen, but not write off debt

European officials spoke in unison on Monday about their intention to cooperate and negotiate with the new government in Athens, but stressed that Greece has undertaken clear commitments, especially regarding the implementation of reforms. On the issue of the country’s debt the eurozone appears ready to extend the maturities of its loans to Athens as well as to reduce lending rates, although a “haircut” is clearly out of the question.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the new government coalition will have to fulfill the country’s agreed obligations and that it is important to take measures which will ensure progress and financial recovery.

On his way into Monday’s Eurogroup meeting, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he will cooperate with the new administration but a debt haircut is not on the table. What could be discussed, he said, is the sustainability of the debt, but only after the completion of the pending assessment of the Greek economy by the creditors. Asked if Germany is examining a plan B for Greece, Schaeuble stated: “We examine many things. I officially tell you ‘no,’ but we are not banned from thinking before we speak.”

Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem noted, “We expect to cooperate and discuss the future of the Greek program.” On the debt write-off – promoted by SYRIZA before the election – he commented, “We have already done much to lighten Greece’s debt,” adding that there is little support in the bloc for writing it off.

The International Monetary Fund also said Greece could not demand special treatment for its debt, while the European Central Bank ruled out participating in a cut. “There are internal eurozone rules to be respected,” IMF chief Christine Lagarde told Le Monde daily. “We cannot make special categories for such and such a country.” ECB board member Benoit Coeure said the ECB would not take part in any debt cut for Greece, but changes to the debt maturities were possible. “There is no room for unilateral action in Europe; that doesn’t exclude a discussion, for example, on the rescheduling of this debt,” Coeure told Europe 1 radio.