NEWS

Merkel says repeat of last year not possible for Greece

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met with New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Brussels Thursday, has warned that Greece cannot afford to reach an impasse with its lenders similar to last year.

Sources said that during Thursday’s meeting Merkel made it clear to Mitsotakis that she would not be able to get German MPs to support any bailout program other than the one agreed between Greece and its lenders last summer.

Merkel is also said to have asked the conservative chief about his stance on the proposed pension reforms by the government. Mitsotakis explained that he is not prepared to support the coalition’s plan because it relies on increases to social security contributions.

Merkel’s warning came as her Social Democratic coalition partner, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, penned an op-ed published in four major European newspapers in which he called for Greece to receive debt relief as long as it is serious about reforms. He also warned that further spending cuts could lead to social unrest and make Greece ungovernable.

Eurogroup chief and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem told MEPs Thursday that the “quality of the reforms” in Greece is of paramount importance.

“The authorities should now shift into high gear so that negotiations can be finalized as soon as possible,” he said. “I very much realize that some of the reforms necessary are politically difficult for society, but it is of prime importance to implement what has been agreed in summer of 2015.”

Dijsselbloem suggested during the session of the European Parliament’s economic affairs committee that cuts to pensions might be necessary.

Sources in Greece said that it appears unlikely the institutions’ mission chiefs will return to Athens next week. The lenders’ technical teams will probably return instead and the discussion they have with Greek officials could determine when their superiors arrive back in Athens.