Sunday 25 February 2018

A whirlwind week of negotiations seemingly led us nowhere - so what happens now?

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

So Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ruled out debt relief for Greece. Why is Ireland taking such a hard line? It's important to point out that Ireland is ruling out a debt write-down for Greece. The Irish Government supports debt relief, for example, through debt re-profiling. This could mean the length of time to repay the debt is extended, but the value of the debt is not being marked down. Among the reportedly unresolved issues in the Greek talks are Greek demands for debt restructuring, which several ministers have rejected. The Government says it has lent Greece more than €300m and it would like this to be repaid.

I thought we were close to a deal on Greece at the beginning of the week. What's suddenly changed? It appeared so, but Greek debt talks have never been straightforward. After four meetings of Eurozone finance ministers in a week, and two leaders' summits, talks remain deadlocked after Greece's creditors rejected proposals put forward by Athens earlier in the week, and then, Athens subsequently rejected counter proposals put forward by its creditors.

I can't keep up. What's going on now? The Eurogroup - the 19 ministers representing the countries using the euro - were due to meet on Wednesday night to break the latest deadlock and thrash out a deal ahead of a planned summit of European leaders yesterday afternoon. The ministers had been instructed to work through the night if possible. But so little progress was made ahead of the ministers' meeting, that it only lasted one hour and was rescheduled until yesterday afternoon. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was given an ultimatum to come up with a revised proposal by yesterday morning, or the creditors would table their own. By the time of the Eurogroup yesterday, two proposals were presented. No agreement was possible and, so, there's going to be another Eurogroup meeting tomorrow.

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