Ireland holding centre ground in Greek debt talks

Irish stance is that Greece must stay in euro with no debt writedown

The Irish Government is not aligned with a camp of countries which are open to the option of a Greek exit from the Euro nor a cluster of states advocating for Greece, officials say.

Irish sources said the Government had two “red lines”: that Greece stays in the euro and that no debt writedown is given to Greece. The Coalition says it is in favour of “radical” debt reprofiling, such as extending the maturities on loans.

However, sources also said the Government is unlikely to veto any proposals put forward in an attempt to solve the Greek crisis.

While France and Italy are the main countries advocating for Greece within the Eurogroup, a cluster of countries - such as Finland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain - are open to a Grexit.


These countries do not want to force Greece from the euro, it is claimed, but believe it would be better off outside the common currency.

Irish officials said the Government’s position is not aligned with either camp but stressed the desire to have Greece remain the euro.

The Greek government is likely to be asked to get parliamentary approval in Athens for austerity measures early this week to signal it is serious about reform, Irish officials also believe.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan this morning attended a meeting of finance ministers belonging to the centre right European People's Party, where the mood was described as "pessimistic".

Mr Noonan has also briefed Taoiseach Enda Kenny on talks ahead of Mr Kenny’s arrival later today for a meeting of euro zone heads of state and government.

Mr Noonan, along with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble, were also said to have attempted to keep discussions going at fraught times during Saturday evening’s meeting of euro zone finance ministers.

However, other sources said Mr Schauble clashed with European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, with the pair said to have shouted at each other.

Requesting that the Greek parliament ratify some proposed austerity measures, such as VAT and pension reforms, as early as tomorrow is emerging as a likely demand of finance ministers.

It would show a signal of intent from Greek government that it is serious about reforms needed for an early bailout package, a position expressed by Mr Noonan on Saturday.

Following Saturday night's meeting, Finnish finance minister, Alexander Stubb said he had been been given a "narrow" negotiating mandate by his government.

The populist Finns party had threatened to bring down the Coalition in May if Helsinki signed up a new programme but sources said the Finnish finance minister had been given a renewed mandate overnight.