ECONOMY

Dijsselbloem says Greece has to decide how to move ahead

The chairman of euro-area finance ministers group, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said it’s up to the Greek government to decide how to move forward in resolving its economic and financial problems.

Dijsselbloem commented Saturday in a text message to Bloomberg News after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he’s not seeking a conflict with the rest of the euro area over his government’s economic program.

“I welcome today’s statement by Prime Minister Tsipras in which he said that the new Greek government wants to reach an agreement with its European partners,” Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch Finance Minister, said.

Greek Bond yields surged on Friday after the country’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said the six-day-old government will turn its back on the rescue program that has allowed Greece to pay pensions and public wages for the past five years in exchange for a punishing regime of spending cuts that wiped out 25 percent of its economy.

“I had constructive talks with members of the new Greek government yesterday. No conclusions were drawn,” Dijsselbloem said, adding that Greece’s aid program expires at the end of February. “It is now up to the Greek government to determine its position on how to move forward.”

Tsipras’s Statement

In an effort to contain the fallout from Varoufakis’s comments, Tsipras, who is pushing for a writedown on Greek debt, said that his government will try to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with the country’s creditors soon.

“Despite the fact that there are differences in perspective, I am absolutely confident that we will soon manage to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, both for Greece and for Europe as a whole,” Tsipras said in an e-mailed statement. “No side is seeking conflict and it has never been our intention to act unilaterally on Greek debt.”

Italy also welcomed Tsipras’s conciliatory tone. Asked to comment on the Greek Prime Minister’s statement, Filippo Taddei, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s economic adviser said, “This statement is not just important per se, but especially because it is complemented by the renewed assurance that a specific effort to address structural problems by the new Greek government is undertaken.”

Decisions on the successor agreement to Greece’s bailout “will be taken jointly in the Eurogroup in the coming weeks,” Dijsselbloem said.

[Bloomberg]