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Athens ‘Begs’ EU For Recognition

Greece is urging eurozone ministers meeting in Brussels to recognise progress made in talks, on the eve of a major repayment to the IMF.

Greece has said it will honour today’s (Tuesday) €750m (£544m, $834m) payment.

No breakthrough is expected at the Brussels talks, as Greek ministers try to unlock €7.2bn in desperately needed bailout funds.

But the Athens government wants a “clear confirmation of progress” to help free up some of the money.

Although it has until the end of June to agree a new reform deal with creditors, it has run out of money and called on local governments and other public bodies to dig into cash reserves to help pay its debt interest instalments.

Greece’s left-wing Syriza party is hoping a positive statement from Brussels would mean that part of the EU/IMF bailout money could be paid out and would enable the European Central Bank to restore liquidity to the country’s beleaguered banks.

Syriza has said it will not break anti-austerity electoral promises as it seeks to agree a package of economic reforms with its international creditors. That has raised the prospect of a referendum on any deal agreed in Brussels.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a fierce critic of the Greek government’s handling of the reform negotiations, said on Monday that “if the Greek government thinks it should have a referendum, then it should have a referendum. Perhaps that could even be the right thing”.

The pressure on the Greek government to do a deal is immense. But if the only deal available is one that means it will have to break many of its election pledges, it could face rebellion within its own party. That means a referendum could be called in Greece on whatever deal finally emerges. It would become, by necessity, a vote on whether the country should stay in the euro, or default on its debts and leave.

Greece did meet last Wednesday’s deadline to pay €200m (£148m) in interest to the IMF but is urgently seeking the final €7,2bn (£5.2bn; $8bn) tranche of its €240bn IMF/ EU bailout in an attempt to stay afloat.

Arriving for the Eurogroup meeting in Brussels on Monday, European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the talks “probably won’t be conclusive – we all know that. But I think we can take stock of substantial progress”.

Mr Moscovici said talks with Greece had become more efficient since a failed meeting in Latvia late last month.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was sidelined as lead negotiator after criticism of his abrasive style at the Riga summit, but he was taking part in Monday’s talks in Brussels.

Syriza member of parliament Costas Lapavitsas told the BBC that there would be “vicious debate” within his party if a deal in Brussels did not measure up to the government’s anti-austerity pledges, and the Greek people would need to have a vote on it.

“What matters to me is that there is a clear popular mandate for what we’re going to do,” he said.

Last week, the Greek parliament voted to re-instate thousands of civil servants who were laid off under the previous government as part of austerity measures.

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