NEWS

Tsipras to meet Juncker on Wednesday to discuss ‘next steps’

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will take up his quest for a debt deal on Wednesday when he meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Monday.

Juncker and Tsipras will meet in Brussels at 9:30 a.m. local time. That follows an hour-long informal meeting Sunday between Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and EU Economic Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, Schinas said, describing the talks as “an initial and constructive exchange of opinions.”

Any solution that emerges must pass muster with all 19 euro-area nations, said Schinas, a spokesman for the Brussels- based commission. He told reporters that “we are ready to hear the Greek government’s concrete plans and to have constructive discussions on the next steps.”

The EU’s starting point for talks is Tsipras’s Jan. 31 pledge to seek a “mutually beneficial agreement” for Greece and Europe as a whole. The Greek leader said Greece won’t act unilaterally and won’t duck its obligations to the European Central Bank or the International Monetary Fund.

That leaves the euro-area nations that funded most of the country’s financial rescue as the focus for the debt writedown that Tsipras is seeking. Many of the currency bloc’s finance ministers, who must agree unanimously for any deal to proceed, have said they’d consider easier terms but not outright loan forgiveness.

‘Red line’

“One could have on the table new demands for yet further lowering of interest rates or even a further prolongation of the debt maturity period,” Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said Monday. “There is at the other end a red line which nobody wants even to consider. This involves haircuts on current outstanding sovereign debt.”

Juncker has previously said the EU could rethink the design of its bailout oversight, currently carried out by the troika of the IMF, the ECB and the the commission. Schinas said today that no specific proposals were on the table.

Juncker’s broad view is that “in the future we should be able to replace the troika with a more democratically legitimate and more acceptable structure based around European institutions with enhanced parliamentary control, both at the European and national level,” Schinas said. He declined to say how this could apply to Greece.

“We feel that form follows function,” Schinas said. “First we need to have a clear understanding and then address specific issues.”

Germany has resisted changes to the current oversight structure. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration sees “no reason to abandon this proven mechanism,” government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told reporters in Berlin Monday.

[Bloomberg]