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27/05 – Brussels Group negotiations on Greece begin today amidst tension

Most newspapers continue to report on Greece’s current situation. Világgazdaság and Jurnalul National report that the IMF and EC’s technical mission ended yesterday without any clear conclusions. Greece has to repay €308 million on 5 June and a total of €1.6 billion within June, but with no agreement in sign yet, Eleftheros Typos reports that the negotiations in the framework of the Brussels Group will begin today in Brussels within a climate of pressures and intense discontent towards the Greek government.

Kathimerini says that in an interview with MNI news agency, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker presented the framework of an agreement that could be achieved between Greece and the creditors until the beginning of June and would cancel the scenarios regarding a payment standstill by Greece and a Greek exit from the euro area. Mr Juncker essentially called the Greek government to take up fiscal measures, such as changes in the VAT regime that could bring €1.8 billion to the state funds, as well as to proceed to changes in the social insurance system.

Diário Económico stresses that Greece’s finance minister for his part said that although there are still core disagreements on those issues, all efforts are being made to a successful negotiation before the IMF payment deadline next week. However, no decision is to be expected at the telephone conference of the Eurogroup working group scheduled for Thursday, and no date has been set for a meeting of the euro zone finance ministers, as high-ranking representatives of the European Commission and the euro zone member states confirmed on Tuesday. As sources from Brussels have communicated, the due date may thus be postponed to the end of June. “There is a possibility that the instalments, owed to the IMF by Greece, are merged and paid in one piece,” a high representative of the euro area stated.

El País reports that in a change of course to speed up a deal with the country’s creditors, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday convened an emergency meeting of his bailout negotiation team to urge officials to wrap up all pending matters. Eleftheros Typos as well as MTV 3’s EU correspondent Helena Petäistö however highlight that the contradictory statements of the Greek Ministers within the weekend as regards the payment of the tranche to the IMF – the Interior Minister stated that Greece will not pay, but rather use the money for pension payments and salaries, while Finance Minister Varoufakis stressed that Greece will make the payment in accordance with the agreements – have caused dissatisfaction in Brussels and in the European capitals, who consider that these actions do not help the negotiations and deteriorate the state of the Greek economy.

ESM Managing Director Klaus Regling and Ecofin Commissioner Pierre Moscovici stressed the need to speed up the negotiations. In the meantime, debates over a possible Grexit are still going on, mostly in the British press.

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