EU officials warn Athens not to take debt issue to leaders’ summit


As Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos braces for a Eurogroup meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday which all evidence suggests will not yield a satisfactory debt solution for Greece, European officials on Wednesday warned Athens against trying to broach the issue at an EU leaders’ summit next week.

“If the matter is not resolved today, then it will be discussed at the next Eurogroup, where the agreement won’t be any better,” one source in Brussels told Kathimerini.

Sources in Berlin, which has taken a hard line in the face of calls by the International Monetary Fund for Greek debt relief, struck a similar tone, with one official noting that the matter falls squarely within the remit of the Eurogroup, “a message that has been made absolutely clear.”

“I don’t remember any Greek problem being solved at the EU leaders’ summit level,” another source representing Greece’s international creditors told Kathimerini, referring to previous efforts by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to broach issues relating to the country’s international bailouts with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders.

A spokesman for Germany’s Finance Ministry, however, struck a positive tone, saying he was looking forward to agreeing on a “viable comprehensive package.”

A proposal by French officials, that a solution to Greek debt relief be linked to the country’s growth rate, is expected to be discussed in Luxembourg on Thursday, though it is unlikely to be embraced in its entirety.

Meanwhile, Athens sounded a defiant note on Wednesday, with a high-ranking government official warning that if German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble does not budge from his positions to make way for a final agreement, then “there are others in higher positions than him that can give a solution.”

“If there is no positive move, in the next few days or during the Eurogroup, from the German minister, then it looks like Angela Merkel will be forced to hold the hot potato,” a government official told the Athens News Agency on Wednesday.

The remark reflected growing tensions between Berlin and Athens ahead of Thursday's Eurogroup, with the government reiterating that if it doesn’t receive an acceptable proposal then it will raise the Greek issue at next week’s summit of EU leaders.

Tsipras has reportedly informed European Council President Donald Tusk that if there is no deal on Thursday, then he will call for a meeting of leaders of eurozone countries to discuss the Greek question on the sidelines of next Thursday’s EU Summit.