‘Plan B’ mooted for Greece as Merkel, Tsipras agree to intensify dialogue

Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras [Bundesregierung]

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed in a phone conversation on Sunday (26 April) to maintain contact during talks between Athens and its lenders to reach a debt deal, a Greek government official said.

“During their communication, they expressed their common will for a steady communication throughout the course of negotiations in order to have a mutually beneficial solution soon,” said the official, who declined to be named.

Greece has been trying to negotiate a deal that would unlock 7.2 billion euros ($7.8 billion) in remaining EU-International Monetary Fund bailout money that the debt-ridden Mediterranean country needs to avoid default and a possible exit from the euro.

But during a regular meeting at the Latvian capital of Riga on Friday, eurozone finance ministers warned its government that it would get no fresh aid until it agreed to a complete economic reform plan.

The official said that the technical teams from Greece and its creditors – the so-called Brussels Group – would hold a teleconference on Monday and convene on Wednesday to speed up negotiations.

Talks ‘going nowhere’

Three months of fruitless negotiations have raised tensions between Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and euro zone colleagues in Riga on Friday (24 April).

Eurozone ministers – the so-called Eurogroup – bemoaned talks they felt “were going nowhere”, and one minister said that maybe it was time governments prepared a plan B, for a Greek default.

European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici on Sunday told French radio station RTL: “We will do everything we need to do in order to reach an agreement.”

He added: “Greece’s place is in the eurozone.”

Varoufakis: ‘They are unanimous in their hate for me’

Responding to reports that he was isolated in debt talks, Varoufakis tweeted a quotation by American statesman Franklin Roosevelt on Sunday which read “They are unanimous in their hate for me; and I welcome their hatred.”

Varoufakis said the quote expressed his feelings in recent days.

Varoufakis, who maintained his critical tone in comments published Sunday, told Greek newspaper Realnews: “Our job is to convince our partners that we are working for profound reforms and a reasonable public finance policy.”

“Their job is to give up their sterile attachment to the ‘logic’ of memorandums (austerity) that has failed,” he added.

A survey published Sunday showed that seven out of 10 Greeks want their radical left-wing leaders to reach an agreement with their creditors.

On 20 March, the European Commission offered Greece funds to deal with what it called a humanitarian crisis, after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed to clarify bailout reform pledges demanded by creditors.

Following crisis talks between Tsipras and European leaders, EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he was making available €2.0 billion in unused EU structural funds to Greece.

>> Read: Greece promises to deliver full reform list after three-hour 'mini summit'

Greece secured a four-month extension of its financial rescue on 24 February, when its eurozone partners approved an economic reform plan that backed down on key measures and promised that spending to alleviate social distress would not derail its budget.

>> Read: Eurozone approves Greek reform plan with reservations

Germany's rejection of an initial Greek request for a six-month loan extension forced Athens into a string of politically sensitive concessions, postponing or backing away from campaign promises to reverse austerity, scrap the bailout and end cooperation with the Troika of EU, ECB and IMF inspectors, which are now called "the institutions".

>> Read: Greece, eurozone agree to four-month loan extension, avert crunch

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