Greek deal without IMF ‘unimaginable’: Dijsselbloem
Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Friday that a bailout deal for cash-strapped Greece without the IMF’s involvement would be “unimaginable.”
Without the International Monetary Fund, a deal is “unimaginable because it needs to have proper content and if it has proper content, the IMF will also participate,” Dijsselbloem told journalists in The Hague, a day after the Fund pulled its team out of talks with Athens.
The IMF on Thursday withdrew from eleventh-hour talks in Brussels, saying an agreement remained far-off after a five-month stalemate with Greece’s antiausterity government, which faces being unable to pay huge debts at the end of the month.
“There are still major differences between us in most key areas,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice later told reporters in Washington, adding no progress in narrowing difference has been made.
“Thus we are well away from an agreement,” he said.
But Dijsselbloem said: “If the IMF walks out — which they won’t I’m sure, then part of the program’s financing will be gone and then we no longer have a base.”
“The IMF’s involvement is indispensible,” said Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch finance minister.
The IMF has said the “ball is very much in Greece’s court right now” — while adding that it “never leaves the table and remains engaged.”
It said the key disagreements were on pensions, taxes and financing.
The Greek government, for its part, said Thursday it would “intensify” efforts to resolve differences with its creditors, “including in the next 24 hours.”
The IMF is the most hard-line of Greece’s three bailout monitors — the others being the European Commission and European Central Bank — who have demanded tough reforms in exchange for unlocking the remaining 7.2 billion euros (US$8.1 billion) of its 240-billioneuro rescue package.
Without fresh external funding when the bailout expires on June 30, cash-strapped Greece is set to default on its debts, meaning it could crash out of the eurozone despite benefiting from two international bailouts since 2010.
The crisis is now set to go to the wire with a Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg on June 18 seen as the last chance to seal a deal in time to get it through national parliaments by the end of the month.
Dijsselbloem said the meeting “is set, whether we’ll be able to talk about a concept agreement or not.”
“I do think it’s in Greece’s interest to get an agreement, but currently it’s not hurrying along,” he said.
Talks in Brussels between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission chief JeanClaude Juncker broke up Thursday without reaching a deal on reforms in exchange for bailout cash.
Tsipras, whose radical-left SYRIZA party won elections in January with a promise to end five years of austerity, has refused to back down on the reforms demanded by Greece’s creditors.
Protesters take down a huge banner bearing a picture of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on a European Union flag from the ministry of finance in Athens as they end the occupation of the building on Thursday, June 11.