Any Greek rescue deal will need Dáil sanction - Noonan
Eurogroup starts two-day meeting to seek solution to bailout impasse as deadline looms
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at a Eurogroup meeting of Finance ministers at EU council headquarters in Brussels on Monday. Mr Noonan underwent treatment for an eye condition at the weekend but is fine, a Department of Finance spokeswoman said. Photograph: Thierry Monasse/EPA.
Speaking on his way into a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Brussels, Mr Noonan said that while there was no legal imperative for the Irish parliament to sanction an extension of the programme, he would “feel obliged” to put it to parliament.
“If there was a new programme, it would have to go to parliament. If it was an extension of the programme, I would feel obliged to put it to the parliament,” he said ahead of the meeting.
Euro zone finance ministers are gathering today for two days of meetings, in a bid to agree a solution to the impasse over the Greek bailout.
On his arrival, Mr Noonan, who had a procedure on his left eye at the Mater Hospital at the weekend, joked to reporters that he was “imitating Johnny Sexton”. The Ireland rugby player picked up an eye injury during the Six Nations victory over France on Saturday evening.
Officials from the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank spent the weekend in Athens in a bid to hammer out a deal, though strong divisions remained between the two sides according to officials.
The Greek bailout expires in 12 days time, but a number of national parliaments would need to sanction any new programme for Greece before that point.
Mr Noonan said a further eurogroup meeting for Friday was possible, as he called on the Greek finance minister “to put specific requests to the meeting”.
“I don’t know what their specific requests are. So I would like it if the Greek finance ministers were to put specific requests to the meeting today. Obviously many of the European countries are amenable to making progress toady. We would certainly accede to a Greek request for an extension of the programme. If that were to happen, some of the roadblocks would fall away and it would be possible to get down to specifics.”
Mr Noonan was lukewarm about a deal being done this evening.
“Nothing happened over the weekend that could be described as a breakthrough. I think the ball is back in the Greek court to explain to the rest of us what exactly are looking for.”
He said that, while the negotiation of a new programme was a second alternative, time was beginning to run out for this option given the imminent expiry of the current programme.
“In my view, extension of the programme is the most immediate way of making progress but I wouldn’t rule out both – an extension of the current programme and negotiation of a new programme somewhere around mid-summer. “
Mr Noonan also mentioned funding of the Greek banks as an issue. The ECB is due to consider the continuation of emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) for Greece’s banks on Wednesday.
Arriving in Brussels, German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said he was “sceptical” about the possibility of a deal. “What I have heard so far has not strengthened my optimism. It seems like we have no results so far,” he said. “I’m quite sceptical. The Greek government has not moved, apparently.”