| 14.7°C Dublin

Greeks seeking common ground in deal - EU chief

Close

People wait for a bus in Athens under a huge slogan reading "wrong".

People wait for a bus in Athens under a huge slogan reading "wrong".

AFP/Getty Images

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Parliament President Martin Schulz smile after their meeting in the Greek Premier's office in Athens.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Parliament President Martin Schulz smile after their meeting in the Greek Premier's office in Athens.

REUTERS

/

People wait for a bus in Athens under a huge slogan reading "wrong".

European Parliament President Martin Schulz has said the new Greek government will seek "common ground" with its European partners as it tries to renegotiate its financial bailout.

Speaking after meeting Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, Mr Schulz said he expected "robust" discussions on the issue.

It comes amid concerns over steps by Mr Tsipras to halt austerity measures following Syriza's election victory.

European leaders have insisted Greece must meet its debt obligations.

Mr Tsipras has said he wants to renegotiate the terms - but insisted there will be no Greek default, which is feared may push Greece out of the eurozone.

Greece has endured tough budget cuts in return for its €240bn bailout, negotiated in 2010 with the "troika" - the EU, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB).

Its economy has shrunk drastically since the 2008 global financial crisis, and high unemployment has thrown many Greeks into poverty.

Greek bank stocks edged up yesterday a day after dipping sharply as the government shelved privatisation schemes required under bailout terms.

After talks with the Greek PM, the European Parliament president said he expected any discussions to be difficult but that Greece would work with others in Europe.

"I found out that the government of Alexis Tsipras doesn't think about acting alone," he said. Greek banks rebounded yesterday, with shares in the financial sector climbing 12.9pc following a torrid week of trading. The bounce came after the embattled sector had slipped by almost 44pc since the beginning of the week, amid concerns that the policies of a new Syriza-led government would dash the industry's profitability.

The relief came as Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's new finance minister, announced plans to meet with Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who heads up the Eurogroup of EU finance ministers,today. Mr Varoufakis's trip will be the first in a whistlestop tour of meetings with his equivalents across the continent.

Separately yesterday, foreign ministers of EU member states held emergency talks in Brussels on the growing crisis in Ukraine.

This week rebels launched a new advance. NATO says the advance, including the shelling of the port of Mariupol that killed 30 civilians, is backed by Russian troops, which Moscow denies. Leaders of several EU countries said the new offensive must be met both by an extension of existing sanctions due to expire in coming months and by new stronger measures to increase pressure on Moscow.

But Greek prime minister Mr Tsipras complained about the bloc taking decisions without consulting his government first. Officials in his government have given conflicting statements about their position, with some indicating Athens could oppose more sanctions.

An EU diplomat said agreement was reached on a six-month extension of asset freezes and travel bans against individuals and firms, but talks were still continuing about adding new names to the sanctions list and preparing new measures.

Meanwhile in Munich, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives also warned Mr Tsipras not to use his de facto veto over an extension of sanctions against Russia as a bargaining chip in talks over Greece's bailout programme.

"Any attempt to connect these two policy fields has to be stopped before its starts," Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the parliament's foreign policy committee, said.

Since the European Union's 28 member states need to agree unanimously on an extension of sanctions against Russia, the new Greek government could actually veto such a move, Mr Roettgen said.

"We have to make clear to Greece that joint action is decisive for the EU's ability to get things done," he added. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk