ECONOMY

Athens seeks higher T-bill limit

Greece submitted on Sunday a request to issue an additional 10 billion euros of treasury bills in a bid to plug a funding gap and secure the time needed for the government to conduct negotiations with the country’s creditors. The request also includes the immediate payment of earnings by the Eurosystem from Greek bonds amounting to 1.8 billion euros, which had been linked to the last assessment by creditors.

According to a high-ranking official in Brussels who declined to be named, the request was submitted in Paris by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to French counterpart Michel Sapin and European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Pierre Moscovici.

Greece can currently issue a maximum of 15 billion euros in T-bills, a limit it has already reached. Varoufakis asked for the ceiling to be raised to 25 billion euros so that Greece can cover its needs during a “bridge agreement” ahead of a final settlement between the eurozone and Athens.

Greece’s European peers are reluctant to satisfy the request as the European Central Bank’s (ECB) monitoring mechanism has already stopped local lenders from buying more T-bills, telling them to be more cautious with their cash flow.

It would essentially take a political decision in Brussels for the 15-billion ceiling to be raised as it is not an issue that can be solely decided by the ECB and must have the okay of the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. It is also unlikely that the request for an additional 10 billion euros will be met, though a smaller expansion to the T-bill pool could be granted.

The payment to Greece of the Eurosystem’s earnings is also a decision that would require the consent of all eurozone member states, given that the release of the 1.8 million euros was dependent on the outcome of the bailout program review.

Sources in Brussels told Kathimerini that eurozone finance ministers are in constant communication and it is likely that instead of an extraordinary Eurogroup meeting there will be consultations over the telephone among certain ministers and representatives of the creditors ahead of the European Union summit on February 12.