Draghi says Athens should focus on reforms, eurozone on debt


European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Thursday called on the Greek government to focus its efforts on implementing reforms agreed with the country’s creditors, noting that the ECB will examine the issues of Greece’s debt sustainability and its possible involvement in the Central Bank’s quantitative easing program when the time is right.

“Discussions on the sustainability of the Greek debt continued” at an ECB meeting earlier in the day, he said.

“We expressed concern, and steps should be taken.”
Draghi said the ECB will conduct its own independent assessment of Greece’s debt.

“When the time comes we will examine independently the issue of the debt sustainability,” Draghi said, adding that “until then it is premature to speculate and weave scenarios,” an apparent reference to Greek calls for inclusion in the ECB’s QE program.

Draghi appeared to indicate that the ECB would proceed with its assessment of Greece’s debt once there has been action from both sides: work from Athens in implementing reforms and action from Greece’s eurozone partners in lightening its debt burden.

The timing of Draghi’s comments was significant. They came a day before Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels for talks that are expected to touch on Greece’s debt problem and the progress of reforms.

Meanwhile in Athens, Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos is to have his first round of talks with representatives of the country’s international creditors on Friday.

The talks are expected to focus on a series of thorny reforms that Athens must enforce to complete a second review of its latest bailout program and launch talks on restructuring Greece’s debt. Among the issues topping the agenda are a new privatization fund and a lagging initiative to crack down on corruption.

According to sources, Tsipras discussed the matter of Greece’s debt yesterday with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who is said to have rebuffed reports that the Strasbourg-based institution will take the initiative to tackle Greece’s debt problem before the end of the year.