Wednesday 20 September 2017

Germany not budging as Greece offers pre-talks compromises

A worker at the Athens Stock Exchange stands in the reception hall as an electronic board displays stock prices. Getty Images
A worker at the Athens Stock Exchange stands in the reception hall as an electronic board displays stock prices. Getty Images

Nikos Chrysoloras and Colm Kelpie

Greece has offered compromises ahead of today's emergency meeting of Eurozone finance ministers, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel last night remained unyielding over terms of the country's bailout conditions.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told politicians yesterday that his government intends to neither tear up the existing bailout agreement, nor allow the budget to be derailed.

Mr Varoufakis said Greece will implement about 70pc of reforms already included in the current bailout deal.

Greek government bonds rose for the first time in five days on optimism there might be room to move toward an agreement that will help ensure the nation isn't left short of funds.

Any deal, however, would require an easing of Germany's stance in the standoff between Greece and its creditors over conditions attached to its €240bn lifeline.

The yield on Greek 10-year bonds slipped to below 10pc by late afternoon yesterday. The Athens Stock Exchange Index rose as much as 6.8pc. It has dropped 3.8pc since the anti-austerity Syriza party was elected to power last month.

The European Commission denied reports it will present a compromise proposal at the meeting today.

The commission said "very intense contacts are ongoing between" commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and others, and that the plan being worked on is to keep Greece in the Eurozone. Expectations are "low" for a final agreement this week, the commission said.

Greece sought to drum up support for a €10bn bridge plan ahead of the meeting in Brussels today. The country is seeking to stave off a funding crunch, while also buying time to push creditors to ease some austerity demands.

Mr Varoufakis's proposal today will include a request for an €8bn increase in the stock of Treasury Bills the country is allowed. He will also seek the disbursement of €1.9bn of profits that Eurozone central banks made on their Greek bonds holdings.

German political leaders have said they will not extend more assistance to Greece without strings attached. Any impasse risks leaving Greece without funding as of the end of this month, when its current bailout expires, and puts Europe's most-indebted state's euro membership in danger.

Meanwhile, separately, economist Colm McCarthy told the Oireachtas Committee on European Union affairs yesterday that the rise of Euro-sceptic parties across the bloc was in part caused by the existence of the single currency.

"There are these Euro-sceptic parties on the rise across Europe. I think one of the reasons for that is the euro," Mr McCarthy said.

"The single currency was a premature project. It has been badly designed and badly managed. It has given rise to feelings in this country, and lots of other countries (including) Greece, that our country is getting screwed by Europe. It might not be reasonable but people feel it. I think the common currency has done damage to the European project."

Irish Independent

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