Public Affairs Networking
22/04 – Internal and external concerns about Greek situation

Today’s European press continue to comment on fears of a Grexit and also report about Greek PM Alexis Tsipras’ action taken earlier this week. Mr Tsipras’ government requested on Monday, through a decree, the seizure of public bodies and local authorities’ cash reserves, hoping to recover €1.2 billion in order to pay public salaries and pensions in May, reports Le Figaro and other sources.

Regions and universities must indeed transfer their funds to the central bank. This decision is causing widespread reaction in the country. An ARD programme says that mayors claimed that this would violate the constitutional right of the autonomy of Greek cities and thus decided to go on strike. Media in Greece also say that the Union of Municipalities (KEDE) executive board approved a resolution calling on all municipalities to refuse to hand over their cash until a general meeting at which a final decision has been taken. KEDE representatives also want a face-to-face meeting with Mr Tsipras.

Questions are then raised about the ability of the government to reimburse €183 million to the IMF on 1 May and €697 million euros eleven days later, adds Le Figaro. Several media in France, Greece and Portugal quote EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, saying yesterday that Brussels was “not at all satisfied with the progress of discussions” conducted so far with Greece, even if they have “increased in intensity in recent days.” “It is also out of the question that Greece receives supports at any price,” further stressed Mr Juncker, as reported in Tageblatt. The EC President also expresses a more nuanced opinion, underlining that the European Commission is ready to do all it can to prevent Greece’s exit from the euro area, as says – for instance – in Italy’s La 7.

In an exclusive interview with Kathimerini, ECB Executive Board member Benoit Cœuré sends a clear message to the Greek government, saying that the latter is responsible for taking all the necessary measures that will ensure the country’s stay in the euro area. He urges the Greek government to take “immediate and decisive action” in order to change the current situation. In the meantime, ECB Vice-President Vitor Constâncio stated however that Greece’s possible default does not automatically entail the country’s exit from the euro area, notes Bursa. The ECB official also spoke about the possibility of introducing controls on Greek banks’ capital, pointing out that such a measure must be requested by the Greek government and approved by the European Commission, adds the Romanian daily.

The Guardian reports Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem warning yesterday that Greece is running out of money, as hopes of a deal to end the country’s worsening debt crisis by the end of this week were again dashed. In addition, The Times reports that shares in Greece’s banking index fell to a record low yesterday amid signs that lenders could soon run out of emergency funding, pushing Athens closer to the euro area exit. If Greece leaves the euro area, “you get very dangerous instability”, Mr Dijsselbloem told RTL, as quoted in several media such as the British newspaper.

Helsingin Sanomat also reports on Mr Dijsselbloem’s opinion, underlining that Greece must fulfil its obligations and comply with the agreements if it wants to be part of the euro area. In a commentary for Handelsblatt, Economics Professor Hans Peter Grüner considers that a Greek default is the “most likely scenario.” He argues that a Grexit would cause political and economic damage to all of Europe, to the EU treaties and to the euro area. Mr Grüner considers that Europe can prevent Greece from “hitting rock bottom,” which will be imperative on a human level.

Based on a Bloomberg report, the European and Russian press further mention that the ECB is thinking of restricting Greek banks’ access to Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) programme, in case of a failure in the negotiations between Greece and its international creditors.

Meanwhile, several media outlets – including The WSJE, The Irish Times and La Stampa – report that Mr Tsipras is expected to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the migration crisis summit on Thursday. They also speak of the upcoming Eurogroup meeting to be held in Riga on Friday, mostly underlining that no decision is expected to be taken. The Irish newspaper quotes a senior EU official, stressing in that sense that “we are a significant way away from a signal that a result is in sight.” Along the same lines, Naftemporiki adds that no final decisions are expected either during the euro area finance ministers meeting in May, since both Brussels and Berlin appear to consider the 30th June as the final deadline for Greece.

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