BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone finance ministers and officials meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss the situation in Greece, but are not expected to authorize more money for Athens because there is still no agreement on how to make its debts sustainable.
The Eurogroup meeting is, however, expected to give Greece two more years to meet its goals in talks about unfreezing lending.
Following are comments ahead of the talks:
“In Europe, decisions are always made when the knife is, so to speak, at our throats, when the abyss is near.
“The very important decisions Greece has passed in its parliament cannot be without effect. We have to find a solution together with the Greeks, which is much better for the whole euro zone than all those ugly scenarios which have been doing the rounds in the past months and which don’t offer a sustainable solution for the euro zone.
“I believe that we have to move ahead. We have to do this in a constructive fashion, but in a way that guarantees that Greece continues its efforts.”
“Greece must be able to stand on its own feet in the foreseeable future. Otherwise, Greece will be permanently dependent on the support of its EU peers.”
“The Austrian taxpayers are also shaking their heads about why we need extra money for Greece every three months.”
“We know that Greece has asked for a bit more time, but more time means more money. That’s an issue because where should that money come from?”
“I can’t imagine that the other states, the ministers, want to go back to their taxpayers and that we will have to decide on new packages for Greece that cost even more in our parliaments. We have to be more creative.”
ON POSSIBILITY OF THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK (ECB) FORGOING GAINS ON ITS GREEK DEBT HOLDINGS:
“The profits of the ECB (European Central Bank) belong to the national banks. Our national bank is independent and I don’t know yet how that money could go to Greece.”
“I think that a deal to put the Greek programme back on track and restore confidence in the euro zone is both desirable and possible. I have come here with the idea of helping to reach this political agreement so we can make substantial progress tonight to get us out of this situation.
“Since the Greeks have made considerable efforts which we asked of them, we now have to make good on our responsibilities. Not everything will be resolved today but I want there to be decisive progress in this Eurogroup.”
“What is on the agenda today is a political agreement to move forward and permit the validation of the Greek programme and I am strongly in favor.
“There will remain additional questions to resolve such as the sustainability of Greek debt.
“In light of the very important decisions taken by the Greeks in recent days we have to give a response and it has to be a positive one... If a bit more time is needed to complete it, we will take it, but we need a strong signal from this Eurogroup, not a weak one...
“Technical questions are important, and there are financial considerations behind them, but our political responsibility is to extend a helping hand to Greece and be ready with a political deal.”
“Greece has made steady progress this week - two very important pieces of legislation have gone through. A lot of the earlier legislation was the prior conditions necessary for a renewal of their bailout and yesterday they passed... a budget with a lot of serious measures in it, so they seem to be fulfilling all of the conditions that they are being asked to fulfill.”
ON GREECE’S FUNDING REQUIREMENT IN EU/IMF TROIKA REPORT:
“I think that figure has been in circulation for some time - that if the programme was extended by two years, that there would be a funding gap of 31-32 billion (euros), so again we’ll have to see later what proposals are being put forward by the troika in respect of the funding gap.”
“There are always differences of opinion among the troika. But I haven’t heard of any difference of opinion on this occasion. But of course they operate by different criteria, and as they apply their criteria it doesn’t mean that there’s any contention between them, it’s simply that the Greek programme will have to fulfill not only the criteria of the (European) Commission and the ECB (European Central Bank), but will have to fulfill the conditions of the IMF as well, and as I said the criteria are different.”
“Greece has done its work and shown some real resolve, so it’s now for the creditors to do the same and certainly the IMF, as always, will play its part.
“We are in for not a quick fix, but a real fix. Not a quick fix, but a real fix.”
“First we’ll have to see what Greece has delivered. Seriously, thoroughness is a must and before we decide, Germany’s Bundestag has to be involved, just like in other countries.
“But we are within the timeframe, aware of our responsibility but we are sticking to the law.”
“I’d like to see if Greece has fulfilled all its obligations and then I’d like to hear the (EU/IMF) troika report because it depends on the Greek government having found a solution with the troika, and I haven’t read anything on that on the wires.”
“The future of the euro is being played out in Spain.”
“We are conscious that international forecasts for Spain are lower than our own forecasts. But those forecasts are not written in stone. We are working in our economic programme to meet our forecasts that we consider to be realistic.”
“We have to take into account that Europe is in recession and that in these circumstances, we must look not just at nominal targets, but at structural ones.
“We see positive signs that indicate that our efforts to correct imbalances can in the medium-term start to produce results.
“The current account surplus forecast for 2013 could even be met this year.”
“We have to reduce the fiscal deficit at a sensible pace. In the medium term we need sound public finances, but it has to be a sensible pace that doesn’t create future problems and everyone in the Eurogroup is on the same page in that regard.”
“We need to take two steps - the capital injection, and we expect Commission approval in the next few weeks, and the other is the bad bank... The combination of the capital injection and the bad bank should leave the process perfectly clear and create a much-healed, stronger financial sector.”
“To get the sustainability report is very important and now we are waiting for more information.
“Unfortunately we haven’t got all the information, not yet, so we are waiting for more information and we can see whether we are able to make decisions today or later this week.
“Probably we are not able to make decisions today, but we will see.”
“I want to hear today where we are: the findings of the troika and the recommendations that they are making, and how we will continue from here.”
“We won’t be put under pressure, the Greeks too have waited for the last moment with many things. We too will take the time we need to see where we are.”
“There are many possibilities, but I won’t get ahead of myself.”
“Greece has a long way to go, so that will take a long time. It’s clear that we will have to make large step towards guaranteeing the stability of the euro.” (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, John O’Donnell, Daniel Flynn, Annika Breidthardt, Robin Emmott and Luke Baker; compiled by Rex Merrifield)