BELGIUM: Greece is to begin technical talks with its international lenders, as it seeks to unlock more than €7 billion of outstanding funds under its bailout programme. It comes amid increasing frustration in Brussels about the pace of negotiations between Athens and its lenders since the Greek election six weeks ago.
Euro zone finance ministers agreed at Monday’s euro group meeting in Brussels to commence technical discussions with Athens in Brussels on the country’s proposed reform measures. Representatives from the institutions will also return to Athens for negotiations, despite the new Greek government’s election promise that the era of the troika was over.
Speaking after the euro group meeting, the group’s president Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that time had been wasted since euro zone finance ministers agreed to a temporary four-month extension of the bailout two weeks ago. “Little has been done since the last eurogroup in terms of talks, in terms of implementation,” he said on arrival in Brussels. “We have to stop wasting time and really start talks seriously.”
His comments were echoed by Minister Michael Noonan who called on the Greek government to progress the negotiations. “It’s time now to move it on to a technical level between the institutions and the Greek authorities. It’s not the jobs of ministers to work with the detail of individual proposals.”
Minister Noonan said the Government had “two red lines” on Greece. “We have our red lines, as we said previously: we don’t even want talk of a Greek exit to be on the menu of solutions and we don’t want writedowns.” While Mr Noonan told reporters that Greece had decided to conduct discussions with the troika through Greece’s deputy prime minister, the Greek government said the arrangement remained the same, with Greek finance minister Yaris Varoufakis representing Greece in the eurogroup.
Speaking after the meeting which was attended by the Greek finance minister, Mr Dijsselbloem insisted that Greece must agree to a full package of measures before disbursement of outstanding funds could be considered, though he was willing to consider the payment of funding in separate tranches.
“There can be no talk of early disbursements if there is no agreement and no implementation. I would be open to considering disbursements cut into parts, but there [NEEDS TO BE]agreement on the whole thing first, and implementation on the ground.”