EU of­fi­cial rues de­lays

Wieser says bailout talks can be fin­ished by next Fri­day, plays down debt hopes

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

A Euro­pean tech­no­crat who has been at the heart of on­go­ing bailout ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Greece and its in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors yes­ter­day ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment over de­lays in the com­ple­tion of a cur­rent re­view while also clar­i­fy­ing that there will be no new debt relief mea­sures but sim­ply the de­tail­ing of those that were agreed last May.

Thomas Wieser, an Aus­trian econ­o­mist and head of the so-called Euro Work­ing Group, which does the groundwork for Eurogroup sum­mits, made his com­ments at an eco­nomic fo­rum or­ga­nized in Del­phi. If the will was there, he said, the bailout ne­go­ti­a­tions could be con­cluded by next Fri­day, he said.

Wieser sought to douse spec­u­la­tion about ad­di­tional debt relief, not­ing that what is on the agenda is the flesh­ing out of an agree­ment at a key Eurogroup sum­mit last May. At that meet­ing, eu­ro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters agreed to ex­tend Greece short­and medium-term debt relief, which the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund has set as a con­di­tion for it to back the coun­try’s third bailout and the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank is de­mand­ing to ap­prove the in­duc­tion of Greece into its quan­ti­ta­tive eas­ing pro­gram. Wieser added that the concept of a bailout pro­gram without IMF par­tic­i­pa­tion is un­re­al­is­tic.

The con­fer­ence was at­tended by sev­eral gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Yian­nis Dra­gasakis, who blamed Greece’s cred­i­tors, and in par­tic­u­lar the Wash­ing­ton-based Fund, for the drag­ging bailout talks. He con­ceded that “there is no own­er­ship of the pro­gram,” indi­cat­ing that cred­i­tors were in­sist­ing on dic­tat­ing terms to Greece. How­ever, he said Greece “shall be the own­ers of the growth scheme that we will dis­cuss at a cab­i­net meet­ing next week.”

For­mer so­cial­ist premier Costas Simi­tis was among those to ad­dress the con­fer­ence. He de­scribed as fool­ish “those who claim Greece can sur­vive out­side Europe,” adding how­ever that the risk of Grexit, a pos­si­ble Greek exit from the eu­ro­zone, had not gone away.

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