Tuesday 26 September 2017

Government has made no decision on Irish debt deal - Finance Minister

Michael Noonan
Michael Noonan

Gavin McLoughlin in Brussels

The Government has made no decision on whether Ireland will seek to replicate any concessions made to Greece as part of that country's efforts to tackle its debt, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said.

"I think we're jumping too far ahead, we really don't know what the Greek position is yet," Mr Noonan told reporters ahead of this evening's meeting of Eurozone finance ministers.

Today will be the first opportunity I have to listen to a representative of the new Greek government directly," he added.

"We've had very little pre-meeting information thus far."

The existing Greek bailout deal is due to expire at the end of the month, and Greece is seeking six-month transition period in which Greece would look to reschedule its official debt, rather than an extension of the current programme or a new programme.

Mr Noonan said such a bridging programme wouldn't work, based on the briefings he has received.

"I'm still of the view that the only space in which Greece can negotiate is with an extension of their existing programme or with a new programme.

"I think a programme is always the opening position and then the elements of the programme can be spoken about."

The normally outspoken Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis spent just seconds talking to reporters ahead of the meeting.

Mr  Varoufakis wants to ditch 30pc of the current bailout programme and implement 70pc.

“We're not seeking a clash. We will do everything to avoid it. But you're not negotiating if you've ruled it out,” he said on the eve of today’s meeting.

He wants Greece to be allowed to raise more short-term funding, ease back on austerity and receive ECB profits on Greek bond holdings.

Earlier today Dutch finance minister and Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said any changes to Greece’s bailout programme will have to be in line with agreements made with the country’s international creditors.

“An agreement is an agreement,” Mr Dijsselbloem told the Dutch parliament.

“That means that only within the programme, measures could be exchanged for other measures.”

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