Greek PM forecasts ‘happy end’ very soon
ATHENS / ROME - Reuters
REUTERS PhotoGreek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras forecast a happy end soon to fraught negotiations with creditors on a cash-for-reform deal, and the chairman of euro zone finance ministers said talks were making progress, though not enough for a deal next week.
However, with Greece fast running out money, sources close to the talks with the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank said there was still no breakthrough on crucial sticking points over pension and labor market reforms and budget targets.
Tsipras, who has taken personal charge of the negotiations, told parliament in Athens: “I am confident that we will soon have a happy ending and that despite the difficulties... We will carry out the agreement which will be concluded soon in Europe.”
The leftist leader said his government was “doing whatever it should in order to reach ... an honest and mutually beneficial agreement with our partners,” but gave no indication of yielding on the lenders’ core demands for painful reforms.
The government has said its “red lines” are that it will not make further pension cuts or legislate to ease layoffs in the private sector. It has given some ground on privatizations and value added tax but wide gaps remain.
In Rome, Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the next week’s meeting of finance ministers of the currency area would not be decisive, but negotiations were moving forward. Greece’s partners would only consider debt relief once Athens committed to and completed its current bailout program, he said.
Despite the slow pace of detailed negotiations, EU officials said they were keen to ensure the Eurogroup sends a positive message othat a deal with Greece is in the works and to avoid another confrontation like the one with Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in Riga last month. However, they said the outcome would not be enough to prompt the ECB to allow Greek banks on emergency liquidity support to buy more short-term treasury bills to ease the government’s funding crunch.