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Saturday 24 March 2018

Noonan: Difficult to know whether there'll be a deal on Greece tonight

Michael Noonan. Photo: Reuters
Michael Noonan. Photo: Reuters

Colm Kelpie in Brussels

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has said it is difficult to predict whether a definitive agreement can be found tonight on Greece at a crucial meeting of Eurozone finance ministers.

Ahead of the gathering in Brussels, Mr Noonan said the model for the talks should be based on the Irish experience, where one condition in a bailout programme could be exchanged for another of ''equal fiscal value.''

''The significant advance was made when Greece wrote a letter requesting an extension of the programme, but there are some ambiguities in the letter and there are some contradictions between what's been said in Athens and what's been said in the letter,'' Mr Noonan said.

''Clarification is necessary later, whether that would be done with a Eurogroup statement or whether that would be done through dialogue, I'm not sure yet.

''One of the prior requirements was a request by Greece to extend the programme. Another prior requirement would be to not only extend it, but to conclude it satisfactorily. It's in the space of concluding it satisfactorily that the letter isn't quite clear.

''I'd model it on what the Irish experience was, where through a negotiation process, after a programme was agreed, one could exchange a condition of the programme for a condition of equal fiscal value.

''That's the way it should proceed. That's the acceptable practice. A programme has to be concluded satisfactorily, but there's flexibility already within programmes, not for dropping conditions, but for replacing conditions with other conditions of equal fiscal impact and indeed equal economic impact.''

Mr Noonan declined to comment on criticisms by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) that Ireland isn't sufficiently supporting Greece.

Meanwhile, the minister also dismissed claims by Fianna Fáil that Taoiseach Enda Kenny was being economical with the truth when he told RTE's Prime Time that the Government had achieved a €50bn reduction in Ireland's borrowing requirement.

''There was a question down to me last week and I answered it in great detail and it adds up to €50bn,'' he said.

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