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03/03 – Creditors’ patience with Greece unlimited? Not Spain and Portugal’s

There is not one day without the Greek government provoking its creditors “to the best of its abilities”, Heike Göbel states in a commentary in FAZ, but the creditors’ patience “seems unlimited”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is confident that everything will work out and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem offers Greece further payments this month as long as it tries to implement the requirements.

Mr Dijsselbloem is waiting for actions from Athens, Vilaggazdasag further reports, quoting him as telling The Financial Times that the Greeks should try to start the programme even before the whole renegotiation is finished. According to The Financial Times, Greece does not seem to be willing to implement any of the reforms from the 6-page document that it has submitted to the Eurogroup. The Greek government, Kathimerini reports, is trying to attach a price to a package of measures to be presented at next Monday’s Eurogroup meeting.

According to Greek sources, Spanish Minister of Finance Luis de Guindos and Vice-President for the euro Dombrovskis said that euro area countries were discussing the possibility of a third support package for Greece worth €30 billion – €50 billion, but they were contradicted by the Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem spokesperson, who clarified that the euro area Finance Ministers do not discuss this scenario.

Whereas the creditors’ patience may be unlimited, Spain and Portugal’s is not. “Alexis Tsipras turns Spain and Portugal against him,” a Le Monde headline reads. According to the French newspaper Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared on February 28 that Spain and Portugal had “attempted to lead the entire negotiation to the brink” from fear of having the Greek example spread before the election in Spain. In a speech to Syriza members last Saturday, Greek PM Tsipras spoke about “the axis of power,” guided by Spain and Portugal, which wants his regime to fall or completely surrender in order to prevent “the Greek example from influencing other countries,”

De Volkskrant echoes, adding – as does Le Monde – that Spanish PM Rajoy and Portuguese PM Coelho have formally asked EC President Juncker to reprimand the Greeks. A European Commission spokesperson indeed said that the Spanish and the Portuguese governments demanded an “official reaction” from the European Commission, FAZ reports. Mediation by the European Commission is now expected to defuse the situation, Le Monde states. European Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva confirmed that the EC has been in contact with the three governments, but refused to comment on the polemic, Diário de Notícias reports.

As to the German government, it has criticised Alexis Tsipras’ verbal attack on Spain and Portugal as “un-European,” Germany’s FAZ notes, as does ABC in Spain. Lord Flight, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, actually claims that Germany is the “biggest cause of the economic misery and growing political instability” in continental Europe, accusing Berlin of failing to learn the lessons of the Treaty of Versailles, Evening Standard reports. In an opinion piece in Le Figaro, Coralie Delaume further accuses the European Commission of taking a firmer stance on France’s deficit than on Germany’s trade surplus.

Germany’s trade surplus repeatedly exceeds 7% of GDP, far above the 6% threshold set by the EU’s Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure, but the EC “does not go further than feebly asking Berlin for corrective measures, because it is so much easier to incriminate France for its deficit and Greece for its debt,” Ms Delaume writes. Asking France to reduce its nominal deficit and its structural deficit at the same time “goes against all logic,” she adds, as it amounts to asking for something and making it impossible to achieve.

Yesterday, some media commented on the double standards Brussels is applying, not for Germany and France, but for Greece and France. Today, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Moscovici is quoted by Naftemporiki as categorically stating that there are no double standards. According to him, France is not being treated differently from other, economically weaker countries like Portugal and Ireland.

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