The right-wing European People’s Party attempted to “sabotage” a debate today (14 February) on the Greek bailout in the European Parliament in the absence of Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who cited a “heavy workload”, Syriza MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis claimed.
The debate, scheduled today in the European Parliament, is taking place amid tough negotiations on the conclusion of the second review of Greece’s bailout programme. It will be attended by the European Commission and the Council of the EU, representing the 28 EU member states.
Disagreement between EU institutions and the International Monetary Fund over the surplus Athens will be able to achieve after 2018 has paralysed negotiations over the conclusion of the bailout’s second review.
The size of the 2017 primary surplus – the budget balance before debt-servicing costs – is in contention between euro zone governments and the IMF, which believes the surplus will be only 1.5%.
In its Winter Forecast published on Monday (13 February), the European Commission predicted that Athens would be in line with its bailout commitments and meet the 3.5% primary surplus target in 2017 and 2018.
If the surplus is higher, then, Athens will not need further debt relief.
Dijsselbloem is “busy”
In an effort to find a way out of the deadlock, Moscovici has scheduled a visit to Athens on Wednesday.
Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem, a key player in the Greek bailout, will not take part in the Parliament’s discussion.
Asked why the Dutch politician will not be present, European Parliament spokesperson Jaume Duch Guillot said, “The European Parliament has repeatedly invited him and I know that he has been informed.”
“I guess his absence is related to his activities in his country, I am unable to provide further explanation,” he said, adding that the truth is that the Conference of the Presidents wanted him to be present and insisted on his participation.
In an interview with Greek website left.gr, Syriza MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament Dimitris Papadimoulis said, “Jeroen Dijsselbloem, citing a heavy workload, refuses to participate in the discussion.”
For the leftist MEP, the public debate on the issue is critical, as it will shed light on a matter where all decisions “were taken behind closed doors”.
He also noted that the European People’s Party attempted to take advantage of Dijsselbloem’s non-participation.
“With the excuse of Dijsselbloem’s absence, the right-wing European People’s Party tried to sabotage the debate,” Papadimoulis said. He stressed that after a lot of pressure the debate will ultimately take place.
“I want an even more powerful role for the European Parliament because, although it has the most positive attitude toward Greece compared to the other EU institutions, is the weakest player,” he said.
No room for further delays
In the meantime, Roberto Gualtieri, Chairman of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament, said it was essential for the second review to be concluded quickly in order for the European Central Bank (ECB) properly to assess Greece’s progress, and to evaluate its access to ECB programmes.
The Italian politician from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D group) noted that after seven years of severe recession, the reform programme had been gradually producing concrete positive results.
“It is now time for all interested parties to enhance their efforts and to go one step further,” he emphasised, adding that Greece’s lenders should honour their commitments and not require additional measures outside the initial framework.
He added that debt relief measures had to be discussed as part of the roadmap agreed in May 2016, recognising that a primary surplus of 3.5% can be sustainable “only for a very limited period of time”.
“There is no room for further delays, especially given the upcoming elections in several EU member states, which would likely make it much harder to reach agreements. That is why the Eurogroup of 20 February is critical in order to find a way forward,” he warned.