Greece and its Troika of international lenders resumed talks on Friday after the Hellenic Republic failed to reach an agreement with its European partners at Wednesday’s ministerial meetings.
Talks between Greece and Eurozone finance ministers broke down on Wednesday after both sides failed to reach a political agreement on how to keep Greece financed past February. According to Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, no “common ground” was reached that would allow both sides to move forward.
“We need a political decision before the financial institutions can get to work. We might make the final progress we need at next Monday’s Eurogroup meeting,” Dijsselbloem said after Wednesday’s Eurogroup meetings.
The newly appointed Greek government headed by Alexis Tsipras has vowed to renegotiate his country’s €240 billion bailout plan and put an end to “cruel” austerity. His far-left Syriza party successfully campaigned on the platform of “anti-austerity,” promising its voters to raise the minimum and cut taxes. Syriza secured 149 of 300 seats in the Hellenic Parliament in January’s snap elections.
Monday’s ministerial meetings could be the last moment for the newly elected Greek government to ask for an extension of the current bailout program, which expires February 28. Mr. Tsipras said on Monday his country would not seek an extension of the current bailout, but would instead focus on finding a new agreement. Given the breakdown in talks on Wednesday, the Greek government may seek a “technical” extension to shore up support for broader reforms in the future. Sources close to the talks suggest Greece could ask for a longer bridge loan through August to cover the government’s immediate funding needs.
Despite suffering an immense economic collapse during the Great Recession, Greece is still part of the Eurozone’s long term plan, a sign European lawmakers are willing to consider relaxing some of the bailout terms. Greece’s exit from the Eurozone, it is feared, could trigger a mass exodus from the fledgling currency union.
In economic data, Greece’s economy shrank once again in the fourth quarter, official data revealed today. Greece’s gross domestic product declined 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter, following an increase of 0.7 percent in the July to September period.
Meanwhile, the Eurozone economy expanded 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, following a 0.2 percent increase in the second quarter. A median estimate of economists called for an increase of 0.2 percent. In annualized terms, Eurozone GDP expanded 0.9 percent, official data showed.