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11/02 -No agreement on Greece expected at today’s Eurogroup meeting

Most newspapers report on today’s extraordinary Eurogroup meeting, where negotiations between Greece and its creditors are expected to begin. No agreement is expected during this a “long night” ahead – merely an outline of a compromise – as today’s meeting is only being considered a preliminary discussion to be continued at next Monday’s Eurogroup meeting,

Many media outlets report that yesterday, the European Commission revealed that there have been “constructive” talks between EC President Juncker and Tsipras, even though some others like Público believe that this conversation “has not been very fruitful”. Alexis Tsipras has presented a four-point plan, calling for a review of Greece’s commitments to reforms and its consolidation effort, says La Stampa.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will present his government’s programme at the meeting today. The priority is to restore essential public services, with a new loan. Postimees reports that there are rumours that Greece will ask for a €10 billion short-term loan today, although Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem has said that the euro area countries do not support the idea. According to Der Standard, there is urgent need to take action: the bailout programme for Greece, which was extended on a provisional basis in December, will expire at the end of February.

According to Ethnos, Mr Varoufakis said that Greece will accept 0% of the austerity measures and 70% of the memorandum measures, the rest being considered “toxic”. He also already announced that he no longer intends to talk to the troika experts. This is expected to trigger German anger; Kathimerini quotes Finance Minister Schäuble saying: “If Greece does not want the current programme, then this is the end.” Many newspapers including The Daily Telegraph and The Times also report that the Greeks Defense Minister has warned that his country would seek money from the US, Russia and China to avert a financial crisis rather than yield to Europe’s austerity demands.

According to an EU official quoted in Børsen, Greece is “digging its own grave.” Several newspapers including La Repubblica quote Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Moscovici saying the EU wants Greece to stay in the euro, but warning that the only way to do so is to extend the current memorandum. Børsen reports that rumours of a possible compromise between Greece and the EU had the Greek stock market react with great enthusiasm. However, an EU official denied them, saying there is no plan at all.

In L’Opinion, Isabelle Marchais discusses the probability of a Grexit and its consequences. According to US and UK officials, it is a possible scenario to resolve the Greek debt issue. Some newspapers actually report that British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that his cabinet is planning for a possible Greek exit. Le Figaro’s Yves de Kerdrel meanwhile says it is to be feared that the Greek executive may resort to a “divide and rule policy” to reach their objectives; any gesture made toward Greece will be scrutinised by other countries with similar problems and eurosceptics throughout Europe, which could trigger a devastating domino effect.

El País‘ leader writer warns of agony-laden days approaching as conversations between Greece and the EU are “reaching their make-or-break point”, calling on Athens to make clear what trade-offs it expects in return for striking a face-saving deal with its euro area partners. The piece concludes by suggesting Tsipras would be better off in his search for EU backing if “he eschews overheated rhetoric at the expense of history,” in reference to his pledge to seek compensation from Germany for its actions in WWII.

In Les Echos, Guntram Wolff, head of the Bruegel think tank, predicts “really difficult negotiations.” In La Repubblica, Andrea Bonanni notes a “collision” between Greece and the EU over the debt issue seems “inevitable,” as Greece’s request for a bridging loan without any conditions is “unacceptable.” The solution will lie in a “semantic artifice” that allows everyone to “save face”, she says, “as usual when Europe has its back to the wall”. Indeed, she stresses, the only solution for Greece is to accept the aid programme.

Handelsblatt’s Cerstin Gammelin also states that it is almost impossible for the two parties to negotiate without at least one of them losing face. She says Tsipras must stop playing the role of the Greek hero if the integrity of the euro area and the EU is to be upheld. In Rheinische Post, Antje Höning concludes that the Greek gamblers still do not understand the gravity of the situation.

Meanwhile, several media outlets including Kathimerini report that the Greek government was granted the Parliament’s vote of confidence last night. At the same time, G20 finance ministers were urging Greece and its creditors to resolve their differences. ©EuropeanUnion2015

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