[UPDATE] In response to our post below, the Greek government this morning has denied it ever agreed to the text we got our hands on. “At no point in time did the Greek delegation give consent to the text that has been published,” said Nikos Pappas, the prime minister’s chief of staff. Our account is based on several sources from multiple delegations, so we stand by our story. However, Greek officials insist the text they agreed to Wednesday night was actually an earlier version than the final statement we published. These officials say the agreed draft was changed before it was to be issued at a late-night press conference by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurogroup chairman, prompting their veto. The drama continues…
Wednesday night’s breakdown in talks between Greece and the other 18 eurozone finance ministers happened at such the last minute that many of the participants in the eurogroup meeting – including Wolfgang Schäuble, the powerful German finance minster – didn’t even know it had happened, since they had already left the building.
According to several officials involved in the talks, Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, had agreed to a joint statement with his colleagues, a statement that was even signed off by Greece’s deputy prime minister, Yannis Dragasakis, who was also in Brussels for the gathering.
Once agreed, the eurogroup meeting broke up and Schäuble and several of his colleagues headed out the door. But officials said Varoufakis put in one last call back to Athens to inform them what he had just agreed to – and government officials vetoed the statement.
We at Brussels Blog got our hands on the statement and have posted it below. In many senses, it has a little bit for everyone. For eurozone officials, who were pushing Athens hard to request an extension of the current €172bn bailout, which expires at the end of the month, it leaves open the option to “explore the possibilities of extending” the programme.
For Varoufakis, there’s even the word “bridge” mentioned in the final paragraph – though not in the sense the Greek minister probably wanted, which is as part of a bridge financing deal.
But the joint statement was not to be. It remains yet another artifact of the long-running Greek drama:
Today the Eurogroup took stock of the current situation in Greece and the state of the current adjustment programme. In this context, the Eurogroup has engaged in an intensive dialogue with the new Greek authorities.
The Greek authorities have expressed their commitment to a broader and stronger reform process aimed at durably improving growth prospects. At the same time, the Greek authorities reiterated their unequivocal commitment to the financial obligations to all their creditors.
On this basis, we will now start technical work on the further assessment of Greece’s reform plans. The Greek authorities have agreed to work closely and constructively with the institutions to explore the possibilities for extending and successfully concluding the present programme taking into account the new government’s plans.
If this is successful this will bridge the time for the Greek authorities and the Eurogroup to work on possible new contractual arrangements. We will continue our discussions at our next meeting on Monday 16 February.
Get alerts on World when a new story is published