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30/03 – Tough talks between Greece and Brussels

Today’s European press reports on talks between Greece and its creditors in Brussels during the week-end. Le Figaro speaks of “tedious” negotiations and describes the chances of reaching a deal on a list of Greek reforms as “slim to none” this Monday. Athens’s proposals are deemed “too vague” by the creditors, who request a series of specific and credible reforms before submitting them to the Eurogroup.

“Athens blows hot and cold in the direction of its creditors”, reads L’Opinion, which adds that Athens has seemingly failed to convince Greece’s creditors. The daily says that Athens’s proposals are based on a very optimistic growth forecast and on raising new revenues to offset the cost of social measures. These plans have been rejected by the Brussels Group, portending new talks with the Eurogroup’s working group. As a result, the euro area finance ministers may not convene this week, as initially planned, to release the last €7.2 billion aid tranche, adds L’Opinion.

Kathimerini reports that a non-paper issued by the government made clear to the euro area and the IMF that Greece would not continue to repay its public debt, unless the creditors immediately disburse the loan tranches they have been withholding since 2014. The non-paper underlined that Greece has not received any instalment by the European Commission or the IMF since August, but it continues to fulfil its obligations. In an interview granted to Real News, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras rejected the possibility of new recessionary measures that will be contrary to the government’s programme statements. He also excluded the possibility of a third memorandum and a new loan with the agreement of June.

Another article of the Greek newspaper reports about pressures of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the Greek government to achieve an agreement and to undertake reforms. In an interview for Die Welt, EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis highlights that Greece has delayed reforms for years and this has pushed it further into recession and increased resistance to those reforms. He said that the European Commission is working to help Greece to use available structural and aid funds in the European Union´s budget more quickly.

On the Grexit issue, Italy’s QN features an interview with EC Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, in which he underlines that nobody wants Greece to leave the euro area but adds that its destiny lies in its own hands. Along the same lines, The INYT’s Simon Nixon also considers that “Greece’s fate in Athens’s hands.” Mr Nixon highlights that one of the Greek government’s biggest mistakes since taking office in January was to assume that its fate lay in German hands: it had overestimated Germany’s power and underestimated the importance of respecting euro area rules and processes.

A MDR programme reports that, during a recent entrepreneurial summit in Brussels, representatives of European companies expressed their clear opposition to any form of Greek exit from the common currency. German industries federation (BDI) President Ulrich Grillo stressed that one should help Greece but not “at any cost” but rather solely by requiring wide-ranging economic reforms. Estonia’s Postimees Online mentions Mr Tsipras’ point of view, accusing some European countries of trying to force his country to exit the euro area by hindering Greece’s loan payments. At the same time, he says that there also are powers in Europe which are looking for an honest compromise.

Meanwhile, Het Financieele Dagblad writes that a partion of the Greek debt should be cancelled in exchange for structural reforms. Solidarity on a national scale doesn’t seem too difficult for European countries. But on a European scale, we find this much harder. Because there is no organised solidarity in Europe, Europe is forced to turn to ad hoc measures when a country gets in trouble, adds the Dutch newspaper.

Along the same lines, Sunday Business Post’s Ian Guider wonders whether Europe will let Greece drown. De Tijd reports on MEP Manolis Glezos’s opinion, asserting that “a Grexit is as bad for Europe as it would be for Greece. It would start a domino-effect that no one would have under control.” He asks Europe to give Greece one year to get its business in order and try its own strategy.

Corriere della Sera reports that Germany is reportedly not willing to make concessions to Greece, fearing that, in 2016, it would have to allow France or Italy to deviate from EU obligations. ©europeanunion2015

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