No breakthrough in weekend talks between Greece and lenders

Talks between Greece and its lenders ended with no breakthrough on Sunday evening in Brussels, with Thursday’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers now being identified as the next opportunity for an agreement to be reached on the measures needed for Athens to unlock another 7.2 billion euros in bailout funds and avoid a potential default.

Commission sources spoke of “significant gaps” in the discussions, where Greece was represented by Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis, State Minister Nikos Pappas and Alternate Minister for International Economic Relations Euclid Tsakalotos.

After lengthier talks on Saturday, the Greek officials and the representatives of the country’s creditors met for just 45 minutes on Sunday before it was decided that there was not enough common ground for the negotiations to proceed. Asked by reporters outside the European Commission’s headquarters whether the brevity of Sunday’s meeting was a negative sign, Pappas said: “We’ll see.”

According to a Commission spokesman, Athens and the institutions have not been able to agree on 2 billion euros worth of permanent measures for each year. He said the aim is to now try to reach a “positive assessment” by the Eurogroup meeting due to take place in Luxembourg on Thursday.

Earlier, European Commission sources had described the discussions with the Greek delegation, which arrived in Brussels on Friday, as “difficult.”

Athens, however, had been insisting over the weekend that the proposals it presented in Brussels would cover any fiscal gap and ensure that the primary surplus targets would be met. After the end of Sunday’s talks, Dragasakis issued a statement claiming that the lenders’ representatives were not authorised to discuss anything other than demands for cuts of 1.8 billion euros per year (roughly 1 percent of GDP) to pensions and another 1.8 billion euros per year to be raised from increases or changes in value-added tax.

“The Greek government’s delegation stands ready for the completion of the negotiations to reach a mutually acceptable agreement,” said Dragasakis.