Eurogroup approves loans, details debt relief, IMF to join


Greece’s international creditors agreed on Thursday to approve the disbursement of 8.5 billion euros in bailout loans and to detail medium-term debt relief measures following talks in Luxembourg.

Describing the agreement as “a major step forward,” Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the deal aimed to get Greece standing “on its own feet again,” noting that debt relief would be linked to the country’s growth rates, in line with a proposal that had been promoted by French officials.

The deal also outlined the participation of the International Monetary Fund in Greece’s third bailout with the Fund’s chief Christine Lagarde saying she would formally recommend the IMF’s participation with 2 billion dollars on a standby basis. 

As regards the debt relief aspect of the agreement, Lagarde remarked that it was not the best solution for Greece as it was only an agreement in principle but the “second best” solution.

European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Pierre Moscovici sought to focus on the positive aspects of the deal. “Tonight, Greece can see the light at the end of its long tunnel of austerity,” he said. “From tonight, the watchwords are jobs, growth and investment.”

His comments were echoed by Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos who, in a separate press conference, said the deal provided greater clarity, for both citizens and investors, “more light at the end of the tunnel.”

A spokesperson for the European Central Bank, whose bond buying program Greece wants to join, described the Eurogroup agreement as “a first step towards securing debt sustainability.” However it remained unclear whether the deal was adequate to pave the way for the ECB to buy Greek bonds or not.

The breakthrough last night came after Athens appeared to have shifted its stance slightly from earlier in the week when tensions between Greece and Germany had peaked and two top government ministers had said publicly that Athens mistrusts German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Speaking from Thessaloniki, where he met Israeli and Cypriot leaders for talks on energy cooperation, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras remarked to reporters, “The good guys win in the end.”

Greek officials have insisted over the past week that Greece has won the right to debt relief.

“Greece has fulfilled its commitments and adopted the required reforms. Now it is time for the Europeans to comply with their commitments on debt relief,” President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said in comments published in Germany’s Handelsblatt.

He appealed to Schaeuble to abandon his persistent opposition to Greek debt relief. “Anything else would not be worthy of a great European politician,” he said. “It is important for us that our creditors secure the viability of the debt. Otherwise the ECB cannot buy Greek state bonds,” he said, referring to the European Central Bank.