Sunday 25 September 2016

Greece hopes for EU/IMF deal at June 18 Eurogroup

Peter Spence

Published 12/06/2015 | 02:30

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker participate in a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the EU-CELAC summit in Brussels. Photo: AP
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker participate in a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the EU-CELAC summit in Brussels. Photo: AP

Greece hopes to clinch a deal with its international lenders at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on June 18, the country's state minister said in an interview this morning.

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"I hope it (a deal) will come very soon, on June 18, when the Eurogroup takes place," State Minister Alekos Flabouraris told state television ERT.

Mr Flabouraris' comments came after negotiating teams from the International Monetary Fund and the Greek government left Brussels yesterday, with the IMF blaming "major differences" and saying that no deal had been agreed.

A more amiable mood between Alexis Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday had led investors to think that the Greek debt standoff had come to an end.

Greek stocks had climbed by more than 8pc before the IMF statement was released. Gerry Rice, a spokesman for the IMF, said: "The ball is very much in Greece's court."

The brief rally enjoyed by holders of Greek equities is now expected to dissolve this morning.

"There are major differences between us in most key areas," Mr Rice said, adding: "There has been no progress in narrowing these differences recently."

He said that he understood Greek authorities were preparing further proposals.

Mr Tsipras said yesterday: "We are working in order to bridge the main differences, especially the differences on fiscal and financial issues."

The IMF said that the Greek pension system is "unsustainable", with state spending on pensions accounting for 10pc of GDP, compared with 2.5pc across the EU as a whole.

The fund recommended that Greek politicians broaden out their country's tax base, and simplify an overly complicated VAT structure. Mr Rice said: "We are well away from an agreement."

Mr Rice said that the IMF never leaves the negotiating table, but that its technical team had left Brussels, where the talks were being held, and returned to Washington.

Reuters said that Greek negotiators had also left, heading for Athens. An EU official said that a meeting between Mr Juncker and Mr Tsipras yesterday was the "last attempt to make a deal possible", Reuters reported.

Christine Lagarde, the IMF's managing director, is due to attend a meeting of euro-area finance ministers next week in Luxembourg.

Greece has until the end of June to strike a deal, or else face the expiration of its current bail-out programme.

If it can agree terms with its trio of lenders - the IMF, European Central Bank, and EU - it could secure a further €7.2bn in assistance.

The country faces a string of repayments over the summer, totalling €10bn.

Irish Independent

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