Sunday 22 April 2018

Eurozone Finance Ministers agree basis for formal negotiations on third bailout for Greece

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives at his office in Maximos Mansion in Athens
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives at his office in Maximos Mansion in Athens
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

EUROZONE Finance ministers have agreed the basis for formal negotiations on a third bailout for Greece in a significant step towards preventing the country from crashing out of the eurozone.

After five hours of talks today, a statement was agreed by ministers which will now be considered by the 19 heads of State in Brussels this evening.

The agreement of a statement, which outlines a series of reforms Greece must implement immediately, appeared a long way off when talks resumed this morning.

But the Syriza Government is understood to have significantly strengthened its commitment to implement a suite of austerity measures in return for €75bn in bailout funds.

But Greece’s woes are only beginning. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be forced to return home and immediately introduce legislation surrounding areas such as VAT and pensions in the Greek parliament.

Assuming the draft text is agreed by the heads of State in Brussels this evening, the prospect of a Greek exit from the euro will be put off for now.

Speaking on his way into the talks, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the lack of trust between Greece and its eurozone partners was a significant factor this weekend.

“I understand that at a very frank and forthright series of exchanges, that the Greeks have actually strengthened their commitment to change and to building trust which seems to be a fundamental issue with a lot of people,” Mr Kenny told reporters.

“I think it’s important to keep in mind here, the bigger European picture and that the statements of intent made by leaders of the eurozone at the last meeting, need to be backed now by the Greeks in terms of demonstrating their conviction to remain a member of the eurozone,” he added.

Mr Kenny said he is due to be briefed by Finance Minister Michael Noonan ahead of the full eurozone meeting.

He remarked that this was his “umpteenth visit” to Brussels in a clear sign of frustration at the Greeks to date.

The Fine Gael leader also said he expects the Greeks to begin implementing legislative changes in parliament as early as tomorrow.

“But from Ireland’s point of view, we are quite willing to work to bring this to a conclusion, where a solution can be reached, where negotiations can start on the detail of a third programme that will keep in the eurozone,” Mr Kenny said.

“I’d like to see them demonstrating, starting tomorrow, in their parliament that they are serious about implementing the changes, legislative and structural that need to be put in place - and there are many of them,” he added.

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