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Noonan to join emergency EU meeting on Greek question


Finance minister Michael Noonan

Finance minister Michael Noonan

Finance minister Michael Noonan

Finance Minister Michael Noonan will join his counterparts from across the Eurozone next week for an emergency meeting to discuss the way forward for debt-riddled Greece.

The Eurogroup of ministers will gather in Brussels on Wednesday evening, on the eve of an informal meeting of heads of government, to thrash out how to proceed with financial support for Athens.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis met with a raft of senior European figures this week - including European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble.

However, Wednesday's meeting will be the first opportunity for the Greek government to set out its stall and detail what it wants.

The new government is dominated by the hard-left Syriza party which campaigned on a platform of demanding a partial debt write-off, ending austerity measures and reversing some of the reforms of the last four years.

Both sides have taken a hard line in advance of next week's meeting.

Eurogroup chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem yesterday ruled out providing Greece with a bridging loan to keep the country afloat while it renegotiates the terms of its bailout.

The Dutch Finance Minister and chair of the 19-member group said simply: "We don't do bridging loans."

He said Greece must ask for an extension to its bailout.

"I hope the situation in Greece remains stable in the meantime, for example in the financial sector, the financial situation with the government won't deteriorate so that we have time to talk with each other," he said.

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"First we have to discuss the content of the programme."

The stand-off between Greece's creditors and the new, anti-bailout government risks leaving Europe's most-indebted state without any funding as of the end of this month, when its bailout is due to run out.

Time to reach a deal is short, because Greek banks will no longer be eligible to use Greek government bonds as collateral in daily refinancing operations with the ECB from Wednesday.

After that, they will have to rely on emergency liquidity assistance from the Greek central bank, which is more costly and can be stopped by the ECB if there are no prospects for a deal between the Eurozone and Greece.

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