“Brussels group” returns for Greece, after another lost Eurogroup deadline

New Europe / Alexandros Michailidis

Jeroen Dijsselbloem during the press conference after Eurogroup finance ministers meeting at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium on Mar. 20, 2017.

“Brussels group” returns for Greece, after another lost Eurogroup deadline


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“Things could wrapped up by Thursday,” suggests a Greek government official that talked to reporters after the Eurogroup meeting in Brussels.

The Greek ministers of finance and labour will be staying Brussels for another round of talks with the heads of mission of the indications. The European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The talks will continue within the European Council premises until Wednesday with the institutions each time represented at the “appropriate level”. The Greek government will be represented by finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos, labour minister Efi Achtsioglou and alternate finance minister Geroge Chouliarakis.

According to an EU Official, onday’s late afternoon meeting in Brussels is between Managing Director of the ESM Klaus Regling, ESM’s head of mission to Athens Nicola Giammarioli,  Director-General for Economic and Financial Affairs Marco Buti, European representative of the IMF Poul Thomsen an head of IMF’s mission to Greece Delia Velculescu, ECB Executive Board Member Benoît Cœuré and European Commission’s head of mission to Athens Declan Costello.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister and president of the Eurogroup, presented Monday’s new round of talks not as a breakthrough but rather as an intensification of the process, that will not take care of thechnicalities, but will “hopefully” focus on the big issues such as labour, fiscal and social security reforms that persist. “On the basis of a preparatory meeting that we had we have agreed that talks will continue intensified in the coming days here in Brussels,” said Dijsselbloem.

Athens rather suggests that the new round of “Brussels talks” was the Greek government’s idea, hoping to spin that talks continue on a political level.

Dijsselbloem: Some key issues remain

“Our goal is to try clear those big issues out of the way,” said Dijsselbloem, avoiding to set great expectations. “There is no promise that all the work will be done by the next Eurogroup meeting of 7 April.” However, the will is strong: “There is a strong commitment to clear talks in the coming days,” concluded the Dutch minister.

Moscovici: Pensions, labour market issues persist – mission in Athens was positive

According to the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici, issues remain, such as pension and labour market reforms. “Mission on Athens was positive and progress was made,” said the Commissioner, reassuring the press that “everyone wants to reach conclusion as swiftly as possible.”

Regling: A significant number of issues are not resolved yet

I share the assessment that there has been good progress since last meeting,” said ESM’s Regling in Brussels, suggesting that issues remain. “A significant number of issues are  not resolved yet. Therefore, it is important to intensify the work.”

“We should try everything to maintain this momentum,” concluded Regling. “We know the next big service payment is only due in July but it’s better that we conclude earlier.”

But, why not in Athens?

According to Dijsselbloem, “a lot of the data mining work is now done,” so there is no reason for the missions of the institutions to go back to Athens at this very moment.

“I think there is strong political will and sense of urgency” for talks to conclude in Brussels, according to the Eurogroup president, adding that this is “a shared feeling by everyone, certainly from the Greek side.”

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