Key EU official rues delays in talks, plays down debt hopes


A European technocrat who has been at the heart of ongoing bailout negotiations between Greece and its international creditors on Friday expressed disappointment over delays in the completion of a current review while also clarifying that there will be no new debt relief measures but simply the detailing of those that were agreed last May.

Thomas Wieser, an Austrian economist and head of the so-called Euro Working Group, which does the groundwork for Eurogroup summits, made his comments at an economic forum organized in Delphi. If the will was there, he said, the bailout negotiations could be concluded by next Friday, he said.

Wieser sought to douse speculation about additional debt relief, noting that what is on the agenda is the fleshing out of an agreement at a key Eurogroup summit last May.

At that meeting, eurozone finance ministers agreed to extend Greece short- and medium-term debt relief, which the International Monetary Fund has set as a condition for it to back the country’s third bailout and the European Central Bank is demanding to approve the induction of Greece into its quantitative easing program.

Wieser added that the concept of a bailout program without IMF participation is unrealistic.

The conference was attended by several government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis, who blamed Greece’s creditors, and in particular the Washington-based Fund, for the dragging bailout talks. He conceded that “there is no ownership of the program,” indicating that creditors were insisting on dictating terms to Greece.

However, he said Greece “shall be the owners of the growth scheme that we will discuss at a cabinet meeting next week.”

Former socialist premier Costas Simitis was among those to address the conference. He described as foolish “those who claim Greece can survive outside Europe,” adding however that the risk of Grexit, a possible Greek exit from the eurozone, had not gone away.