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Continued fears of Grexit as Eurogroup meeting takes place today

Current negotiations on Greece and concerns over a potential exit of Greece from the euro area remain the major issues commented by European media outlets. Almost all the press is pessimistic regarding today’s Eurogroup meeting, saying that it won’t bring major conclusions.

Die Welt says that, apart from the European Commission, there is barely positive appraisal over the development of the talks with Greece. Observers acknowledge the European Commission’s optimism with a dry comment: “The European Commission is going soft again,” further says the German daily.

Several Greek media speak positively about EC President Juncker. Efimerida Ton Sintakton quotes President Juncker, telling Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that there is progress in the negotiations. In an opinion article for Vima Kyriakis, journalist Zois Tsolis considers that the EC President has saved Greece at least three times until today and that his most crucial intervention was his joint statement with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras last Thursday.

Ethnos Tou Savvatou reports that a high-ranking European official stated on Friday that he expects that the Eurogroup meeting will send an encouraging message to Greece to continue its constructive and productive negotiations with the partners. The euro area finance ministers are expected to welcome and confirm the progress achieved in the last two weeks at the Brussels Group discussions, further says the Greek newspaper.

Ecofin Commissioner Moscovici explained that Greek economic reforms are not proceeding fast enough and that there is still a great distance to be covered before an agreement can be reached, notes Phileleftheros. La Libre Belgique provides more nuanced comments of the Commissioner, underlining that “Greece needs to stay in the euro area.” Le Figaro quotes Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, considering that the Eurogroup meeting “will not be decisive, even though there has been some progress.”

De Morgen also cites Mr Dijsselbloem, stressing he is “confident that Greece will be able to make its next payment.” Bild Zeitung mentions a statement of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, saying that a third aid programme would be considered if Greece fulfills all obligations. Le Figaro also quotes the Finance Minister, stressing that his country would do everything in its power to keep Greece in the euro area under “justifiable conditions”.

Libération recalls that there are still disagreements between Mr Tsipras and his European partners as well as the IMF, mainly on the reform of the pension system and the need to make the labour market more flexible, which the European Commission does not consider essential to strike a deal. Cinco Días’ Bernardo de Miguel suggests that Greece’s haggling with Brussels over a debt deal will be protracted, noting that Greece seeks to stretch out the deadlines and raise discussion to the highest possible political level, with a European summit scheduled for late June.

Criticism towards Greece is still mostly expressed by the German press. Greece is to present a comprehensive reform programme today but the expectations over the suggestions of the country are not very high, reports Die Welt. Georg Anastasiadis says – in a commentary for Münchner Merkur – that he does not does not think that Athens will present a “sustainable” reform plan today. He makes criticism towards Greek PM Tsipras, by saying that Mr Tsipras has different priorities than attending to the millions of pensioners that will soon have no pension.Despite the provocations from Greece, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble emphasised that Greece may not fail because of Germany, adds the author.

In an opinion piece written for Handelsblatt, Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, believes that the fundament of a competitive economy in Greece is lacking and that no socialist dream castles can be built on quicksand. Mr Wissman considers as well that the monetary union must not pay for “immature socialist experiments”.

The INYT’s Hugo Dixon considers that, in its current state, Athens will have two options: default and leave the euro, or default and stay in the single currency area. Given that both options are dire, the Greek government needs to quickly work out a realistic strategy for how it is going to come to terms with its creditors, stressed Mr Dixon. The euro area is being held hostage when it comes to Greek aid, writes Thomas Mayer in a commentary in Der Standard. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is an expert in game theory but played his cards in the Greek loan negotiations wrong, which left Greece isolated, comments HS.

De Tijd’s Koen Meulenaere advocates for a Grexit arguing that Greece is undermining the EU’s credibility. He also denounces the continuously changing economic forecasts made by the European Commission. As more positive expectations on Greece, EP Budgets Committee Chair Jean Arthuis says, in an interview with Libération, that he is convinced that an agreement will eventually be secured between the Greek government and its creditors, adding however that Mr Tsipras needs to realise that “the reforms demanded are not aimed at punishing or humiliating Greece,” but at putting the country back on its feet.

While calling for “an implicit restructuring of the Greek debt,” Mr Arthuis further underlines that EU member states have made “a major political mistake” and acted “irresponsibly” by accepting Greece into the euro area in 2001. El Pais’ editorial highlights that a Greece capable of “sustained and strong growth, and not defeated and humiliated,” is in everyone’s interest. The FT’s editorial titles: “an accidental default should not lead to Grexit.”

Meanwhile, in an article published in Luxemburger Wort, Mr Varoufakis explains that rather than focusing on the next injection of liquidities and the conditions that go with it, Greece needs a vision. He writes that very little progress has been made in the negotiations with the EU and the IMF, due to negotiating parties focusing on short term objectives such as the next aid tranche and reforms instead of working on a vision for Greece’s development. ©europeanunion2015

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