At odds over a swift debt arrangement

At odds over a swift debt arrangement

Athens and its creditors appeared on Monday at odds regarding how to deal with the Greek debt: While the government is seeking a long-term solution with a fresh approach, the eurozone sent a message that the new arrangement will concern some sort of extension – as in the past – and that it will be granted under certain conditions and at a later date.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos told an American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce conference in Athens that the issue of the Greek state debt will have to be resolved by the end of March. He stressed that the government wishes to avoid the use of past measures because they “did what the Americans call ‘kicking the can down the road.’”

He added that unless decisions are made fast, the threat of a Greek exit from the eurozone will not disappear from the table and consumers will not spend, savers will not take their savings back to the banks and investors will not invest.

A response came from the same podium by the representative of the European Commission, Declan Costello. After saying there have been numerous concessions granted on the debt issue, he announced an additional effort will be made that may concern some extension in debt repayment. He noted that “we should look into the structure of the debt.” The criterion will be to ensure that the annual repayments are sustainable, he added.

The general secretary for fiscal policy, Frangiskos Koutentakis, stated at the same conference that there should be a long-term arrangement for the debt, to reduce the annual amount of payments. Although he said that was “easy,” he expressed the opinion that the eurozone is trying to dodge its responsibilities and using Greece as a scapegoat.

Costello responded by saying that any solution to the debt will come with terms and conditions. “Obviously there will be conditions for the new lightening of the debt: that Greece fully implements the program and that it is clear regarding the long-term policies,” he stated, adding that regarding the Greek debt that “there is no issue for the next eight years. Any discussion concerns the medium term.”

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