NEWS

Tsipras reaches out to euro region amid Greek spat with Germany

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reached out to Greece’s creditors, saying he’ll iron out the kinks in relations with the rest of the euro area days after his government lodged a complaint about the German finance minister.

Tsipras, speaking as his country met a loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund of about 350 million euros ($370 million), said that Greece has already starting delivering the action required to release more bailout funding and that he expects the euro region to do its part.

“We will solve all these misunderstandings,” Tsipras told reporters in Brussels on Friday before meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The Greek people need to hear a “hope message,” he said.

Tsipras and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, are negotiating with the euro region to release more funds from the country’s 240 billion-euro bailout amid concern that his government could run out of cash at any moment. The Greece Public Debt Management Agency issued a payment order to be transferred to the IMF and the money will be deposited today, government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said by telephone.

Greek bonds fell, with the 10-year government bond yield gaining 29 basis points to 10.71 percent at 1:17 p.m in Athens. The Athens Stock Exchange dropped 1.1 percent to 785.53.

The next financial hurdle comes on March 20, when the government has to pay the IMF another 346 million euros and refinance 1.6 billion euros of treasury bills. That’s at the same time as EU leaders including Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be meeting for a two-day summit in Brussels.

Time Wasting

Varoufakis last week said he has an “alternative” to cover the country’s cash shortfall as talks with creditors drag on, though he declined to say what that fallback option was.

After a meeting in Brussels on Monday, euro-region finance ministers told Varoufakis to stop wasting time. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble suggested his Greek counterpart’s understanding of the Feb. 20 agreement extending Greece’s bailout program wasn’t up to scratch.

“He just has to read it,” Schaeuble told reporters. “I’m willing to lend him my copy if need be.”

Greece’s ambassador in Berlin made an official complaint to the German Foreign Ministry on Tuesday over Schaeuble’s comments. Schaeuble dismissed the suggestion that he had insulted Varoufakis as “absurd.”

Schaeuble kept up the pressure in an Austrian television interview Thursday, saying Greece’s future in the euro “lies entirely” in the hands of Tsipras’s government and problems “can’t be solved by declaring others scapegoats.”

Asked whether that means Greece might leave the euro, Schaeuble said “we can’t rule it out.”

German Opinion

A survey published by ZDF television on Friday showed that 52 percent of Germans would rather Greece left the euro, compared with 40 percent who want the country to stay. ZDF ascribed the reversal of sentiment from the last survey to the Tsipras government’s lack of seriousness in dealing with the rest of Europe. Eighty percent said Greece is not taking the negotiations seriously enough. FG Wahlen interviewed 1,266 people between March 10 and March 12 and the margin of error was about 3 percentage points.

“There are a lot of violent words. I don’t think it serves any goal,” Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs meetings of his 18 euro-area counterparts, told Dutch broadcaster NOS Friday. “The issue is that in Greece, too often, the cause of the problems in Greece are put outside Greece. Germany is currently the favorite victim of that.”

Juncker, the commission president, said he was sure Greece will be able to reach an accord with its euro-area partners.

“I really do think that it will be possible in the next coming weeks to deal with the matters we have to deal with in a successful way,” he told reporters.

[Bloomberg]