Greek PM Tsipras criticises ‘odd stance’ ahead of key meeting

EU ministers to gather in Brussels for last ditch Greece talks

As some Greek politicians fume at the news that PM Tsipras conceded to lenders' demands, others prefer to wait for further details, giving him temporary support. Video: Reuters

 

Hopes of a Greek deal receded ahead of Wednesday evening’s crunch eurogroup meeting on the country’s debt crisis.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said that some of the creditors had not yet accepted the latest Greek proposals, criticising the IMF in particular.

“The insistence of certain institutions of not accepting parametric measures has never happened before - not in Ireland, nor in Portugal,” Mr Tsipras wrote on his Twitter account. “This odd stance seems to indicate that either there is no interest in an agreement or that special interests are being backed.”

The reports from Athens that creditors had not yet accepted the latest proposals submitted by Athens drove stock markets down sharply.

Greece’s main opposition leaders are also travelling to Brussels today for talks in what is being viewed as Greece’s last chance to secure a deal before its bailout expires on Tuesday.

With the Greek parliament expected to debate and vote on any agreed deal over the weekend, Mr Tsipras faces an uphill battle to secure the necessary parliamentary support for a deal, with a number of Syriza politicians vowing to vote against further austerity measures.

Deputy parliamentary speaker and Syriza member Alexis Mitropoulos said the deal would be difficult for the party to accept, calling it a failure by the leadership and “not in line with the principles of the left”.

On Wednesday morning Greek economy minister George Stathakis said that “two or three” items remained to settle with international lenders, including long-term debt relief.

The issue of VAT exemptions in the Greek islands is particularly an issue for the Independent Greeks party.

Euro zone sources in Brussels said that a final agreement today was by no means a done deal. While the latest set of proposals have been welcomed by creditors as the basis for discussion, the IMF in particular is unhappy with the balance between spending cuts and tax rises in the current Greek proposal, pushing for further cuts in government spending.

Among the main proposals being tabled by Greece include a commitment to phase out early-retirement from next year, the introduction of a new “solidarity” tax for high income earners, and an increase in corporation tax.

In total, the proposals now being scrutinised by officials in Brussels amount to about €8 billion in further adjustment measures in 2015 and 2016.

“All the technical, all the hard issues are to be looked at in the eurogroup, “ a senior EU official said this morning. Another EU source said there would be pressure on the eurogroup of finance ministers to “sit all night” if they have to, in order to secure an agreement before a two-day summit of EU leaders begins on Thursday afternoon.

With protests continuing last night in Athens, it is expected that political support for a deal in Athens hinges on whether any commitment can be extracted from Greece’s creditors on easing the country’s debt burden.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said that no discussion on debt relief had taken place during Monday night’s emergency summit, but a commitment to consider some form of debt writedown could be mentioned in the context of discussion on a third rescue programme, a prospect which now seems virtually inevitable for Greece.

Meanwhile Minister for Finance Michael Noonan who returns to Brussels this evening for the third emergency eurogroup in six days, told the Dáil yesterday that his comments at Monday night’s eurogroup had been “misrepresented.”

Following reports that Mr Noonan had called for the ECB to curb liquidity to the Greek banks if capital controls were not introduced, Minister Noonan said that his position was that an agreement be reached with Greece was negotiated by Thursday.

“That is my position,” he added. “Anything else is based on leaks, suppositions and spin.” He confirmed that he had sought clarification on Monday from ECB president Mario Draghi as to how long he thought it was feasible to pay emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) to Greece.

Emergency aid

The European Central Bank sanctioned a further release of more than €900 million in emergency aid to Greek banks yesterday, its fourth such move in five working days as depositors pull their funds from the banks.

The banks are increasingly reliant on such aid to stay open and the ECB’s decision to review the situation only day-to-day is seen as an effort to add urgency to the political talks.

Total ECB emergency aid to Greek banks now stands at some €89 billion, up from €83 billion only one week ago and an increasing source of political concern in Germany and other countries.

European officials briefed on the engagements with Greece said the mood in in the negotiation is better now than for months.

However, they say the gap between the measures in the new Greek proposal and creditors’ demands is “still quite big.”

“I think there’s still a big gap. There’s too much focus on taxation instead of expenditure cuts and the reform package is still a bit wishy-washy,” said one person with direct knowledge of the talks.

But the increasing anticipation of a deal this week drove global stock markets higher yesterday, with the value of European shares reaching their highest level for three weeks.

Such anticipation also lay behind a decline in the borrowing costs of Spain, one the countries most exposed to any failure in the current talks and a Greek exit from the euro zone.