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Optimism, but no breakthrough, prevails in Greece crisis talks

Crunch talks in Brussels between Greece and its international creditors have failed to produce a breakthrough, but both sides say progress was made. Reform talks to unlock urgently needed funds will continue. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' (above left) meeting with international creditors in Brussels extended into the early hours of Thursday morning, in an attempt to thrash out a deal that could avert a possible "Grexit." The push is towards a deal that would allow Athens to access crucial bailout aid in return for reforms. Time is running out for Athens to reach an agreement with its creditors - the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - as it faces 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) in debt repayments this month. Tsipras' anti-austerity Syriza government has been locked in a standoff with Greece's creditors to unlock the last tranche of its bailout package. Both sides indicated the negotiations were heading in the right direction, but the four-hour discussions that ended on Thursday concluded without any agreement. "I believe that, in any case, agreement is in sight but we need to conclude the discussions with a realistic point of view," Tsipras said after the talks, which included European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (above right) and Eurogroup Chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said in a statement that "progress" had been made. "It was a good, constructive meeting. Progress was made in understanding each other's positions on the basis of various proposals. It was agreed that they will meet again. Intense work will continue," it said. The talks center around what budget reforms Greece needs to implement to get the 7.2 billion euros ($8.1 billion) that are left over in its bailout fund. A key test of how much money Greece has left will emerge this Friday, when it must repay the IMF 300 million euros. Tsipras said he had rejected some of the reform plans put forward by Athens' creditors, including cuts to pensions, and a rise in the sales tax for electricity. "There are points that no one would consider as a base for discussion," he said. Ahead of the meeting, Tsipras had a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. The three agreed on Greece's need for lower primary surpluses - the budget balance without taking into account debt servicing. Without bailout funds, Greece could eventually default on its debts and crash out of the euro. Officials fear that Greece may not have the time to push key reforms through parliament by the end of the month, when the European share of Athens' bailout expires.

Crunch talks in Brussels between Greece and its international creditors have failed to produce a breakthrough, but both sides say progress was made. Reform talks to unlock urgently needed funds will continue. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ (above left) meeting with international creditors in Brussels extended into the early hours of Thursday morning, in an attempt to thrash out a ... Read More »

Greek PM due in Brussels for debt talks amidst competing reform plans

Greece's prime minister will meet EU Commission chief Juncker to discuss his government's proposal to unlock the last of its debt relief. Greece's creditors, unimpressed by Athens' plan, have drafted their own framework. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be in Brussels on Wednesday (today) to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss his government's proposal to secure a long-awaited agreement with his country's lenders and unlock the last round of much-needed bailout funds. The announcement from Tsipras' office early Wednesday followed an earlier statement that Athens had submitted a 47-page proposal to its three creditors; the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the EU. "It is now clear that the decision for whether they want to adapt to realism and emerge from the crisis without the division of Europe…belongs to the political leaders of Europe," the prime minister said, noting that his government had made considerable compromises. Creditors come up with competing proposal For the last four months, Tsipras' radical left-wing government has been locked in a stalemate with the IMF, ECB and EU over how far Greek financial reforms must go in order for the economically struggling nation to access the last 7.2 billion euros (8 billion dollars) in rescue loans. Without these loans, Greece could default on its debts, forcing it to drop out of the euro currency bloc and sending both the European and global economies into uncharted territory. Athens' proposal met with an optimistic but tepid response from lenders. "We are nowhere near far enough," said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who also heads the meetings of the eurozone finance ministers. Greece's creditors, meanwhile, announced late Tuesday that they had drafted their own proposal following an emergency meeting on Monday evening in Berlin attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde and her ECB counterpart Mario Draghi. "It covers all key policy areas and reflects the discussions of recent weeks," a senior EU official told the Reuters new agency. A different official also told Reuters that Merkel and Hollande would put their plan to Tsipras by telephone ahead of Wednesday's meeting to try and secure his acceptance as soon as possible.

Greece’s prime minister will meet EU Commission chief Juncker to discuss his government’s proposal to unlock the last of its debt relief. Greece’s creditors, unimpressed by Athens’ plan, have drafted their own framework. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be in Brussels on Wednesday (today) to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss his government’s proposal to secure ... Read More »

Ahead of Berlin meeting with Chancellor Merkel, EC president warns on Grexit

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned of the consequences of Greece leaving the euro. His comments come ahead of a meeting with the German and French leaders in Berlin on Monday. In an article published in Monday's edition of the "Süddeutsche Zeitung," European Commission President Juncker said a Greek exit from the eurozone could damage trust in the single currency. "I don't share the idea that we will have fewer worries and restraints if Greece gives up the euro," Juncker said. If a country were to withdraw from the euro, "it would fix the idea in heads that the euro is not irreversible," he added. Juncker is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Berlin on Monday. He told the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" that Greece would be on the agenda, although it was not the official reason for the talks. On Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke by telephone with the leaders of France and Germany in their second conference call in three days to discuss progress in the talks between Athens and its lenders, Greek officials said. Greece needs to complete negotiations on a 7.2-billion-euro ($7.8 billion) payment from the bailout plan that has kept its finances afloat for the last five years. Otherwise, the country could default within weeks and crash out of the euro currency union. Tspiras in 'Le Monde' On Sunday, in an article on the website of French daily newspaper "Le Monde," Tsipras blamed "absurd proposals" of creditors for the failure to reach a deal that could release emergency aid to avert default. He cited the uncompromising approach of the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for five months of fruitless negotiations. "The lack of an agreement so far is not due to the supposed intransigent, uncompromising and incomprehensible Greek stance," he wrote. "It is due to the insistence of certain institutional actors on submitting absurd proposals and displaying a total indifference to the recent democratic choice of the Greek people." For his part, Juncker warned an exit of Greece from the euro, a "Grexit," could prompt international investors to pull out of Europe. The EC head said Japan's prime minister had told him that Japan's investment in Europe depended on having confidence in the European currency. Juncker also called on the IMF to continue to support Greece. "It won't work without the IMF," Juncker said, adding that the German government had made the IMF's participation in the 2010 bailout program a particular condition for aid to Greece.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned of the consequences of Greece leaving the euro. His comments come ahead of a meeting with the German and French leaders in Berlin on Monday. In an article published in Monday’s edition of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung,” European Commission President Juncker said a Greek exit from the eurozone could damage trust in the single ... Read More »

Varoufakis expects Greece deal ‘in about a week’

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said he expects an agreement with bailout creditors to take place over the next week or so. However, he said the leftist government would reject any "non-viable" compromise. In a late night interview with the private television channel Star TV, Varoufakis said he thought creditors were also keen to reach a deal. "I think we are very close," Varoufakis said. "Let's say [it's a matter] of about a week." For almost four months, Greece's radical left-led government has been seeking an acceptable agreement with creditors from the 19-country eurozone and International Monetary Fund (IMF), who want economic reforms to secure a 7.2-billion-euro ($8 billion) cash injection. That money, the final payment due from Greece's 240-billion-euro bailout program, could help Greece avoid bankruptcy and the possibility of introducing capital controls or even leaving the euro. In the past few weeks, Greece has managed to pay its way using cash from reserve accounts, paying debts as well as its regular domestic commitments such as pensions and wages for state employees. Not beyond the line However, Varoufakis said he would reject any compromise that the Greek government considered to be "non-viable." Athens has defended "red lines" beyond which it will not be pushed in its talks with the lenders. These include further pension cuts and increased market liberalization. "I assure you that if we face a dilemma between paying a creditor who refuses to sign an agreement with us and a pensioner, we will pay the pensioner," Varoufakis told the television channel. "I hope we will be able to pay both." Referendum idea 'not fair' Varoufakis ruled out the possibility of a referendum on the terms of an agreement, saying it would effectively be a vote on whether to keep the euro as a currency. "It would be unfair for Greek citizens to have to take a position on such a matter, answering with either a yes or a no," he said. 100 days of Tsipras - chaos, frustration and disarrayPrime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose party Syriza aims to stick to its electoral pledge of not cutting pensions and announcing mass layoffs, said Athens had tabled detailed proposals for a viable deal. But he warned that Greece is in a state of "financial strangulation," and criticized the lack of liquidity that the country was being subjected to. "The lack of liquidity is neither the choice nor the responsibility of the Greek government," he said. "It is a tough negotiating tactic of our partners, and I do not know whether everybody in Europe feels proud of it," he said.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said he expects an agreement with bailout creditors to take place over the next week or so. However, he said the leftist government would reject any “non-viable” compromise. In a late night interview with the private television channel Star TV, Varoufakis said he thought creditors were also keen to reach a deal. “I think ... Read More »

Greece ‘very close’ to deal with lenders: PM Tsipras

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said his country's left-wing government is "very close" to reaching a deal with bailout lenders. He has insisted, however, that he will not back down from refusing further cuts. Tsipras, who earlier this week marked 100 days in office, is currently seeking a deal with lenders to release a final 7.2 billion euros ($8.3 billion) in bailout funds - money which would be crucial to Greece if the country is to avoid a summer default on loan payments. Athens' paymasters - the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - however, have said they will only provide the funds if the Greek government pushes through the necessary reforms. 'Issues remain open' Speaking at conference in Athens late on Friday, Tsipras said it appeared he had reached "common ground" with lenders on a number of issues. "That makes us optimistic that we are really very close to an agreement," Tsipras said. Despite reaching agreement with lenders on harmonized sales tax rates and tax administration reforms, Tsipras said that several issues remained open. "I want to reassure the Greek people that there is no chance or possibility for the Greek government to retreat on the issue of wages and pensions," Tsipras told the conference. "Wage earners and pensioners have suffered enough," he said. The Greek PM hopes to have finalized the deal by the end of May. Drain on bank deposits The ongoing dispute between Athens and lenders has already caused Greece to slide back into mild recession. As a result, the country is currently faced with a troubling drain on its bank deposits and a string of ratings downgrades. Ahead of Tsipras' comments on Friday, Canada-based DBRS became the latest agency to downgrade Greece's sovereign rating from B to CCC, with a negative outlook. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis wants the ECB to agree for Athens to delay payment on some 27 billion euros ($30.9 billion) in Greek bonds it will otherwise be unable to repay. 6.7 billion of that is due to be repaid in July and August.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said his country’s left-wing government is “very close” to reaching a deal with bailout lenders. He has insisted, however, that he will not back down from refusing further cuts. Tsipras, who earlier this week marked 100 days in office, is currently seeking a deal with lenders to release a final 7.2 billion euros ($8.3 ... Read More »

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