NEWS

Eurogroup’s turn to make Greece wait for bailout deal

Despite last-minute scrambling to secure a deal between the leaders of the three parties in the coalition government on the terms of a new bailout, Greece was given the cold shoulder on Thursday by its eurozone partners, who said Athens would have to wait to find out if it will receive at least 130 billion euros in new loans.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos managed to secure an agreement between the party leaders at around 3 p.m. after deciding to bring forward some wage cuts at public enterprises and increase the reduction in defense spending in order to save 625 million euros, which would allow cuts to pensions to be limited to levels that were acceptable for all three leaders.

The agreement came a few hours before the Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers in Brussels by Greece?s representative, Evangelos Venizelos, who soon discovered that the rest of the eurozone was in no mood to give the green light for funding just yet.

?The agreement, as far as I understand, is not at a stage where it can be signed off,? said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. He said the talks were being held to ?make clear to Greece and the partners in the negotiations what the conditions for a second agreement are.?

The head of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that there were still several points to clear up. ?If it is not tonight, it will be done next week,? he said.

The tenuous deal reached in Athens followed a night of tense negotiations on Wednesday. Talks between Papademos and the heads of the three parties in his coalition government – PASOK leader George Papandreou, New Democracy?s Antonis Samaras and right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) chief Giorgos Karatzaferis – started at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and dragged on for seven hours due to objections over proposed cuts to auxiliary pensions. The most vehement in his opposition was Samaras, but it was Karatzaferis?s departure that caused waves as he indicated that he might withdraw from the government.

Papademos resumed talks with creditors, which continued into the early hours, and his office issued a statement in the early hours of Thursday morning, saying that a ?broad agreement? had been reached with the exception of one issue, referring to the pensions cuts. Venizelos was forced to travel to Brussels with an incomplete deal but subsequent talks between Papademos and Samaras on Thursday morning fleshed out the agreement.