Representatives of Greece’s international creditors on Monday night remained locked in talks at a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels where both bailout funding and the debt question were on the table.
An initial meeting, involving all eurozone finance ministers, yielded a mostly positive assessment of Greece’s adoption of a series of prior actions, according to sources.
Subsequent talks, aimed at reaching a comprehensive agreement that also tackles Greece’s debt, were trickier.
They started with a four-way meeting between Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, France’s Bruno Le Maire and Poul Thomsen of the International Monetary Fund. This was followed by a series of smaller meetings between top officials that stretched late into the night.
Earlier in the day Dijsselbloem dampened Greek expectations for a deal on debt at the Eurogroup, saying that “a final deal” on debt is expected, “if it is needed” in 2018 when the bailout expires. The Dutch minister said that the goal of the meeting is for the IMF to join the Greek program.
Athens’s main obstacle to securing a deal for debt relief at the Eurogroup and to unlock bailout funds is Schaeuble, who, earlier in the day, indicated that he would not approve more loans to Greece without the participation of the IMF. On debt relief he has appeared intent on picking up the discussion after the Greek program ends.
“Midterm debt relief measures are already in effect. The next measures will be decided after the end of the program,” Schaeuble said before the Eurogroup, adding that debt relief for Greece will need special approval by Germany’s parliament.
However, the EU’s Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici struck a more positive tone before the meeting. “I feel a strong willingness by all parties without exception to reach an overall deal,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a phone conversation with new French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday in the latest in a string of contacts he is making to push the case for Greek debt relief.
According to the PM’s office, both men agreed on the need for a solution that will benefit Greece and the eurozone and that they will work together toward this goal by having frequent contacts.