The meeting on Greece between eurozone finance ministers in Brussels ended after only a few hours on Monday (22 June), but Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the new Greek proposals sent this morning give an opportunity to reach a deal this week.
“New proposals from the Greek government came in this morning which we welcomed today, which is seen as a positive step in the process,” said Dijsselbloem at a news conference with Economic and Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici.
“But given the very little time that the institutions have had to look at the proposals, they were unable to give us a full and indebt assessment of the proposals. The Eurogroup has asked and urged them to work closely together and with the Greek authorities to immidiately start to go into those proposals, go through them, do the calculations… All of this with a view of if possible reaching an agreement later this week,” the Eurogroup president said.
Dijsselbloem also suggested that another Eurogroup meeting should take place on Thursday, before a normal EU summit.
Sunday evening, Greece sent new proposals on how it would reform its economy in order to unblock €7.2 billion in its remaining bailout funds to avoid a default 30 June, when the country has to repay the IMF.
Eurozone finance ministers were extremely sceptical about the proposals when they arrived, declaring that more meetings would be needed this week to save Greece from a default.
Finnish Minister of Finance Alexander Stubb was the first to say that he had “very low expectations for today” and that leaders apparently were tired of wasting their air miles. Austria’s Minister of Finance, Hans Jörg Schelling, said that Greece had not submitted new proposals, only changed the data in them.
Like Stubb, he complained about having to travel to Brussels, and joked that Greece would have to pay for the travels in the future.
Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble was perhaps the most critical, saying that nothing related to Greece had changed since the latest Eurogroup meeting Thursday (18 June).
He complained that the new proposals by Greece were sent late so that eurozone finance ministers were unable to arrive well-prepared for the meeting. Schäuble also mentioned that some officials in Brussels had made prematurely positive statements over the weekend about the possibility of reaching an agreement with Greece.
AFP reported that in its new proposals, Greece wants to raise the VAT on hotel stays, a key rate for tourism, from 6.5% to 13%, while raising the VAT on restaurants from 13% to 23% has not been resolved. Athens has also accepted impose the lowest VAT rate of 6% on medicines, books and theatre tickets.
Greece is also prepared to eliminate early retirement from 2016, and supplementary pensions above 1,000 euros would be cut.
Later today, EU leaders of the 19 eurozone countries will hold an emergency summit in Brussels. They will consider Athens’ latest proposals and possibly open a way to end the deadlock and unblock €7.2 billion in Greece’s remaining bailout funds.
The anti-austerity party Syriza won an overwhelming victory in the Greek elections on January 25, but nonetheless failed to obtain an absolute parliamentary majority.
The party leader Alexis Tsipras provoked mixed reactions among his EU counterparts, announcing that the "vicious cycle of austerity is over".
The reforms offered by Athens have failed to convince the Eurogroup and the country's creditors, and Greece now finds itself unable to pay its debts and in a more precarious situation than ever.
- 22 June: Euro summit in Brussels.
- 25 June: Eurogroup meeting in Brussels.
- 25-26 June: Council summit in Brussels.