Taoiseach hopes solution to Greek impasse found this week

Angela Merkel says ‘no basis’ for a decision on matter tonight as European leaders meet

The president of the Eurogroup says new Greek proposals are "a positive step in the process" and a result is possible in the next couple of days. Video: Reuters


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that a deal on the Greek crisis is needed within the coming days but he played down the possibility of a definitive agreement at Monday night’s summit.

Arriving in Brussels, Mr Kenny said he hoped there would be a conclusion to the impasse this week.

“The important thing is that there be a conclusion to the negotiations this week because this continued instability is really making great difficulty for the people of Greece, ” he said, adding that progress had been made at a eurogroup meeting of finance ministers.

“In light of the changing position that has taken place today, what’s on the table now is the basis of discussions. There is movement in respect of VAT. There is movement in respect of the primary surplus position.”

The meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Greece broke up without a deal earlier as they sought yet more talks with Athens in anticipation of a further bid to settle the matter on Wednesday or Thursday.

The emergency meeting in Brussels, the ministers’ second in five days, broke up after only two hours. The country’s creditors are now working towards an agreement at a scheduled summit of all EU leaders which begins on Thursday and concludes on Friday.

“We will work very hard the next couple of days – the institutions will work very hard with Greek authorities – with a view of reaching such an agreement later this week,” said Dutch minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chairman of the group of euro zone ministers.

The ECB has raised the ceiling on emergency liquidity for Greek banks for the third time in six days and a senior ECB policymaker said any further extension would depend on how talks with creditors progress.

In a statement the euro goup said: “The euro group broadly welcomed a new version of the reform plan submitted by the Greek authorities this morning, before the Eurogroup meeting, and considered it to be a positive step in the process.”

The euro group asked the institutions (the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) to start analysing the new proposal and together with the Greek authorities work out a list of prior actions with a view to reaching a final agreement on the reform plan later this week.

Politics of situation

Pointing out that it falls to the creditor institutions to continue with detailed discussions on the revised plan submitted by Greece, Mr Kenny said that leaders would “discuss the politics” of the situation this evening.

“Obviously the institutions have been mandated by the eurogroup to continue the detailed discussions on the changed position that has been presented today so we look forward to the meeting here, discussing the politics of this so that there can be a conclusion and agreement this week.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel also lowered expectations of an agreement on Monday night, saying there was “no basis” for a decision.

Earlier European Council president Donald Tusk called on EU leaders to “end the political gambling” as he warned that time was running out on the Greek crisis. “It is my responsibility to make sure that we have done all we can to solve this problem. But it is also my responsibility to ensure that we respect all tax payers in all countries,” he said, adding that “all cards” should be on the table tonight.

Funding proposal

Greece had submitted a revised funding proposal to its creditors on Sunday night but Mr Dijsselbloem said the document came too late for detailed consideration. There was confusion earlier when it emerged that Greek proposals submitted in a second delivery of documents from Athens contained what Mr Dijsselbloem described as “minor changes” from the original submission.

The ministers have asked officials to carry out detailed scrutiny of the new Greek proposal and engage with Greek officials.

“The work can start immediately as far as we are concerned,” Mr Dijsselbloem told reporters in Brussels this afternoon. “If necessary — and if all goes well, it will be necessary — the euro group will have another meeting later this week to hear from the final outcome of the talks with the Greek authorities.”

Economics commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who earlier said he was “convinced” euro zone leaders would find a way out of the Greek crisis, said the Greek proposals had come rather late in the day.

“We looked this very quickly. It’s a good basis for work, work further to be done in order to clarify, specify and check the overall consistency,” he told a press conference.

“Regarding what the euro group has to do: well, it has given a mandate with the institutions to get together with the Greek authorities to get to work straight away and work on this with a view to reaching an agreement on a political basis.”

Mr Dijsselbloem said the first general opinion of “the institutions” -- as the EU Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank are known in the Greek talks -- was that the new Greek plan was broad and comprehensive.

“But they really need to look at the specifics to see whether it adds up in terms of whether the reforms are comprehensive enough for the economic recovery to take off again. So you will have to have some patience,” he said.

“It is a basis to really restart the talks now in the next couple of days to get a result.

“Of course ministers would have liked to have had them earlier so they also could have had more understanding of what’s in them but then again we always say that the institutions must look at them first, go through them, try and reach agreement so this is the next step that we will go into very rapidly,” he said.

Prompt deal

Austria’s central bank president Ewald Nowotny, a member of the ECB’s governing council, said Greece risked losing access to further emergency funding for its banks if the government does not reach a prompt deal.

“(ELA) runs precisely for one day because there is a summit meeting (of leaders) to deal with the Greek question and the ECB, sensibly enough, did not want to anticipate the result.”

Anticipating some progress on Greece’s debt crisis, European shares surged to their highest level in more than a week on Monday.

“It’s a relief rally, but it has got a long way to unfold. There is a 75 per cent chance that it will be sorted out and Greece will remain in the euro zone,” Nick Lyster, European chief executive of Principal Global Investors Europe, said.