NEWS

Talks move slowly as Athens eyes political deal

A teleconference of eurozone Finance Ministry officials on Wednesday concluded that much more work needs to be done before a deal can be reached with the country’s creditors while Greece’s envoy in the negotiations currently taking place in Paris said any decision must be reached on a “political level.”

The Euro Working Group teleconference was held to lay the groundwork for Friday’s Eurogroup summit in Riga, Latvia, but eurozone officials said afterward that no statement was expected to be made about the Greek situation in Riga. Sources pointed to some improvement in the pace and quality of the talks, noting that Greece was sending more experts to the discussions. But they added that the two sides remain far apart on key issues while Greece’s growth forecasts are regarded as excessively optimistic.

In comments to Mega TV after talks in Paris on Wednesday, Greek envoy Nikos Theoharakis said talks were progressing though labor and pension reforms remained the key points of contention. Any agreement can only be reached “on the political level,” he said.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras plans to take a step in that direction when he meets in Brussels today with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of an emergency summit on immigration. Sources close to the German government, however, suggested that Merkel is likely to do little more than repeat that a deal must be reached at the technical level.

Germany’s Finance Ministry spokesman, Martin Jaeger, said there were “very limited expectations” of the Riga meeting, which would probably yield an interim assessment on the reforms Greece must make for urgently needed rescue loans.

Despite the low expectations, Greek officials sought to appear upbeat on Wednesday. Government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis told ANT1 TV Tsipras would express to Merkel his commitment to achieving a mutual compromise quickly. In comments to Parliament, meanwhile, State Minister Nikos Pappas said the government would stick to its red lines. “The creditors have put on the table some demands that have not been accepted to date and will not be accepted,” he said.