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Tags: greece | financial | lifeline | tspiras

Greece's Endgame Nears as Tsipras Warns Bell May Toll for Europe

Sunday, 31 May 2015 10:52 PM EDT

Greece faces a week of tough decisions as negotiations over a financial lifeline edged closer toward endgame with creditors showing no signs of budging over what it will take for them to release more money.

As another of the government’s self-imposed deadlines for securing a deal on its finances slipped away, disagreements between the two sides on budget targets persisted, a person familiar with the matter said. Greece must make four payments totaling almost 1.6 billion euros ($1.78 billion) to the International Monetary Fund this month and its bailout package backed by the euro region expires at the end of June.

While Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wrote in French newspaper Le Monde that any intransigence wasn’t the fault of his four-month-old administration, a senior German lawmaker said it was down to Greece to adhere to reforms agreed to before Tsipras took power. An international official who asked not to be identified said creditors were discussing a deal to be presented to Greece as a way of ending the impasse.

“The lack of an agreement so far is not due to the supposed intransigent, uncompromising and incomprehensible Greek stance,” Tsipras wrote in the article published on Sunday. “It is due to the insistence of certain institutional actors on submitting absurd proposals and displaying a total indifference to the recent democratic choice of the Greek people.”

With technical talks yielding no breakthrough, Tsipras is seeking the intervention of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. The three leaders held a call on Sunday to discuss what happens next, with a German government official calling them “constructive.” Merkel and Hollande are scheduled to meet in Berlin on Monday.

Sticking Points

With negotiations now in their fifth month, creditor institutions are seeking concrete action in areas including the pension system, labor market and sales tax.

Tsipras said in his article that Greek plans for collective bargaining by unions adhere to norms in the euro region while reforms for retirees mandated by the country’s bailout agreement aren’t fit for a civilized country.

The biggest hurdle is their insistence on additional fiscal measures of as much as 3 billion euros, a Greek official with knowledge of the matter said. The official asked not to be named, as negotiations are private and ongoing.

While Greece’s partners are aiming to do their utmost to keep the country in the euro, “the ball is in Greece’s court” to fulfill the pledges made in the current aid package, Volker Kauder, the parliamentary chief of Merkel’s Christian Democrat- led bloc told ARD TV on Sunday.

One Message

Officials representing creditor institutions spent the weekend working to converge among themselves on all key issues related to the Greek bailout review, a person familiar with the matter said. The common position may be communicated to Tsipras by European political leaders, the person said, asking not to be named, as he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Merkel will likely be more involved as time runs out between this week and a meeting of euro-region finance ministers on June 18 in Luxembourg, the person said. According to the official, the agreement may be delivered by leaders, but it will have been put together by the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.

Greece’s anti-austerity government has repeatedly expressed confidence that an agreement to unlock bailout funds and avert default is within reach, only to be rebuffed by officials representing the creditors. The standoff over the terms attached to emergency loans has triggered a liquidity squeeze and record deposit withdrawals, tipping the economy back into recession.

Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis had told reporters in Athens on May 28 that a deal with creditors could be reached by Sunday. That day, like many previous dates in recent weeks, came and went.

Paying Debt

Greek shares were little changed in May, with the benchmark Athens Stock Exchange index gaining 0.3 percent, as local reports of progress were followed by stark warnings from European officials about the risks of impeding default.

The nation’s bonds delivered a 0.36 percent return in the last month, according to Bloomberg’s market-value weighted index of the country’s sovereign notes. Financial markets in Athens are shut on Monday for the Orthodox Pentecost holiday.

Failure to strike an agreement risks leaving Europe’s most indebted state unable to meet its debt obligations.

As the clock ticks, finance ministry officials have told Greece there’s not time to get a disbursement approved by the currency bloc’s parliaments unless they reach at least a technical agreement by the beginning of June.

Economy Minister George Stathakis said in an interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera that he expects a “technical solution” with Greece’s creditors “in a few days.” The accord would be followed by a meeting of euro-area finance ministers to free up resources. Stathakis reiterated that there will be no problem with the first payment due to the IMF on June 5.

In his Le Monde article, Tsipras said coming up with a solution is vital for all of Europe.

“If some, however, think or want to believe that this decision concerns only Greece, they are making a grave mistake,” he wrote. “I would suggest that they re-read Hemingway’s masterpiece, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’.”

--With assistance from Brian Parkin in Berlin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nikos Chrysoloras in Athens at [email protected] To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at [email protected] Rodney Jefferson

© Copyright 2023 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Greece faces a week of tough decisions as negotiations over a financial lifeline edged closer toward endgame with creditors showing no signs of budging over what it will take for them to release more money.
greece, financial, lifeline, tspiras
Sunday, 31 May 2015 10:52 PM
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