Eurozone peers hike pressure on the government

Greece’s eurozone partners on Friday increased the pressure on the new government to request an extension to the country’s bailout before an emergency summit of eurozone finance ministers on Wednesday, with officials rejecting Greek proposals for a “bridge” agreement to be put in place until the end of May so that a new arrangement can be found.

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem ruled out the prospects of an interim solution in comments to reporters in The Hague. When asked about bridge loans, he said, “We don’t do them,” adding that eurozone officials wanted to know what the Greek government really wants.

The summit was arranged for Wednesday, even though a Eurogroup summit was already scheduled for February 16, to give Greece more time to reach a deal with its creditors ahead of the expiry of its bailout at the end of this month. “Before then, we expect the Greek government will make a proposal on how things should move forward,” German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told reporters in Berlin.

A Greek envoy to a session of the Euro Working Group – a meeting of senior finance ministry officials – in Brussels on Friday set out the broad strokes of the new Greek government’s economic policy priorities but told his peers that the administration and he himself were too new to make specific proposals. Eurozone officials encouraged Giorgos Houliarakis to seek an extension to the bailout program, stressing that the Greek economy is in a fragile state and that any decisions should be taken with great care, Kathimerini understands.

In a very different message from abroad, 300 intellectuals signed a joint letter calling on Greece’s international creditors to start negotiations “in good faith” and to “respect the decision of the Greek people to choose a new course” in recent general elections. The letter, posted on the French website Mediapart, was signed by James Galbraith, Stephany Griffith-Jones, Jacques Sapir and Dominique Meda, among others.