The government and all sides are working hard to achieve a convergence of views on Greece at the next Eurogroup meeting on June 15, Minister of State and government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said on Wednesday, replying to questions during the regular press briefing. He also noted, however, that while the conditions allowing an agreement at the next Eurogroup were there, it was possible that more time will be needed to bridge the differences.
“We will not take whatever we are given. The next milestone is the summit meeting on June 22,” he told reporters. The decisions on the Greek programme concern all of Europe, Tzanakopoulos added, and had a political aspect that should concern the Eurozone at the highest possible level.
He denied the existence of “united fronts” against the Greek positions on the debt and cited statements by European Central Bank (ECB) officials saying that the ECB will draft an independent debt sustainability report on Greece that takes the Eurogroup decision into account.
The spokesman also criticised the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for pressing hard when it came to austerity reforms but “giving in” easily when demanding debt relief. “In our opinion, this does not help,” Tzanakopoulos commented and repeated that the Greek side wants a “clean solution”.
“The decision for Greek debt relief was taken on May 24, 2016 when it was decided that the criterion for debt sustainability was that the gross financing needs of the country cannot exceed 15 pct of GDP in the medium term. This is the fundamental framework in which the entire discussion on the debt is being conducted,” he said.
The same Eurogroup meeting had also decided that there three tools available for alleviating Greek debt, namely to extend the maturity of Greek bonds, introduce a grace period for interest rates and return any profits made on bonds held by the ECB.
“The discussion now is about further specifying the degree to which we will use these tools, which will go into effect and be implemented after the end of the Greek programme. In order for the IMF to participate in a programme, it must have a positive debt sustainability analysis,” Tzanakopoulos added.
The measures had to be clarified sufficiently so as to provide a final and sustainable solution to the Greek problem, guaranteeing the Greek economy’s growth and Greece’s access to financial markets on sustainable terms, he said.
On whether Greece will qualify for the ECB’s quantitative easing programme, Tzanakopoulos said that no Eurogroup decision could determine this in advance and that the ECB would arrive at its decision independently.
“We seek the greatest possible clarity on the medium-term [measures] so that the ECB will consider the debt sustainable,” he said.
On other issues, Tzanakopoulos denied reports that the Greek government was behind “pushbacks” of Turkish nationals seeking asylum at the Greek borders, who were returned without undergoing the asylum application process.
Earlier in the press briefing, Tzanakopoulos said that Greece’s economy currently shows great potential but much depends on the decisions that will be taken on a European level regarding the debt and for boosting growth. He said the lenders and the institutions now had an obligation to “make the required decisions that will guarantee the return of European normality to our country.”