Eurogroup talks on Greek debt deal go down to the wire
With an agreement expected on Greece’s debt late on Thursday night, Greek and foreign officials were locked in talks at the Eurogroup in Luxembourg, discussing the extension of the repayment period of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) loans and the size of the final bailout tranche.
These two issues were the focus of a trilateral meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and his French and German counterparts, Bruno Le Maire and Olaf Scholz.
According to a Eurogroup draft document seen by Kathimerini and published on Wednesday, an extension of between 15 to 20 years for the repayment of EFSF loans was placed on the table, but was difficult for Germany to accept.
The draft document also included measures stipulating the return of profits that eurozone central banks made on Greek government bonds and the abolition of an originally agreed increase on the interest on EFSF loans.
Before the meeting of the 19 finance ministers yesterday afternoon, eurozone and Greek officials appeared optimistic that a comprehensive deal would be reached, namely to conclude the fourth and final review of the Greek bailout, to set out debt relief measures and to agree on the details of the country’s post-bailout enhanced surveillance program.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said earlier in the week that she hoped Thursday’s Eurogroup would mark the “final step“ before Greece’s exit from the program in August.
Arriving at the summit earlier in the day, European Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, spoke of a “historical moment for Greece and the eurozone… at last after eight years of difficult reforms and tough adjustments and programs.”
He stressed the need for a “credible package of debt measures which is strong enough to alleviate the burden of debt for Greece and to reassure markets.”
In a post on its official Twitter account earlier in the day, the European Commission said that “a new chapter is opening for Greece.”
“This is the result of both national reforms and support from EU partners,” it said in the post, which was accompanied by an upbeat video showing sunny scenes from Athens and the Greek islands superimposed by statistics pointing to an improving economy.
“The sacrifices and efforts of the Greek people in undertaking these reforms have delivered real, tangible results,” the statement added.
Hours before the announcement of the deal, and even while the Greek delegation was locked in negotiations with representatives of Greece’s creditors, government officials in Athens were insisting that the deal-in-the making was a positive one for Greece.
The emphasis on the debt deal is part of a broader government strategy to shift attention from recent developments, notably the name deal with Skopje, which has led to a rift in the coalition as the junior partner objects to the use of the name “Macedonia” in any agreement.