BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels ended their discussions on the next tranche of loans to Greece without agreement on Wednesday, but with plans to meet again next Monday.
Following are comments from ministers and officials after their talks:
EUROGROUP PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER
“The Eurogroup welcomed the staff-level agreement reached between the (EU/IMF) troika and the Greek authorities on updated programme conditionality, including a wide range of far-reaching measures in the areas of fiscal consolidation, structural reforms, privatization and financial sector stabilization.
“The Eurogroup noted with satisfaction that all prior actions required ahead of this meeting have been met in a satisfactory manner. This reflects a wide ranging set of reforms, as well as the budget for 2013 and an ambitious medium term fiscal strategy for 2013-16.
“These efforts demonstrate the authorities’ strong commitment to the adjustment programme.
“The Eurogroup commended the considerable efforts made by the Greek authorities and citizens to reach this stage.
“Against this background, the Eurogroup has had an extensive discussion and made progress in identifying a consistent package of credible initiatives aimed at making a further substantial contribution to the sustainability of Greek government debt.
“The Eurogroup interrupted its meeting to allow for further technical work on some elements of this package. The Eurogroup will reconvene on Monday, November 26.”
“We are close to an agreement but technical verifications have to be undertaken, financial calculations have to be made and it’s really for technical reasons that at this hour of the day it was not possible to do it in a proper way and so we are interrupting the meeting and reconvening next Monday.
“There are no major political disagreements.”
“Some colleagues want to defer to heads of state or even parliaments. It wasn’t the case for everyone, so I decided to interrupt the meeting and reconvene it Monday at noon.”
“Greece has delivered. Now it’s up to us to deliver.”
“The most difficult point is the analysis... of the Greek debt sustainability.”
Following are earlier comments from ministers and officials ahead of the talks:
“I have the impression that a political agreement is within reach and I think it is our duty as finance ministers to get it this evening.”
“Everyone has to accept that they will have to go beyond their red lines.”
“I am mildly optimistic about a deal this evening. I know the IMF and the ECB still have questions to ask. Greece has made a lot of effort and it is time that we think how to (make) concrete our support.
“Greece must also stay on its reform path. Belgium for one wants more guarantees that reforms will go ahead, such as on fiscal management, before the next disbursement can be released.”
“Yes, I think so. It would be very positive for Greece and for the euro zone’s future. The issue is how to get Greece’s debt down to 120 percent in 2020 and we hope to reach a deal that satisfies everyone.”
“We have been working in a very good spirit and in a very constructive manner with the IMF in order to find an agreement as regards how to reduce the debt burden of Greece and restore the debt sustainability of Greece and I trust that we will have results tonight on the basis of the (EU/IMF) troika’s proposal.”
“The Eurogroup this evening will take the necessary decisions to ensure the debt sustainability of Greece.
“And it’s essential that we will be able to decide on a set of credible measures on reducing the debt burden of Greece tonight.
“Furthermore, we should be ready in the coming years to take further decisions if needed, in order to ensure that there is the sufficient debt sustainability of Greece.”
“It’s essential now that we take a decision on a set of credible measures on debt sustainability and at the same time, we need to be ready to take further decisions in the light of future developments and of course, conditional and dependent on the full implementation of the reforms and the programme by Greece over the coming years.”
“We need to find ways and means to ensure that both we can restore debt sustainability and we can ensure the necessary financing. Greece has shown that it is serious about reforms, both in fiscal consolidation and structural reforms. Now it is essential that we will be able to clear the air from all uncertainty about Greece, still hanging over Greece and thus over all of the euro zone.”
ASKED ABOUT DIFFERENCES WITH IMF OVER GREEK DEBT SUSTAINABILITY:
“We have no argument with the IMF. The IMF has its own conditions on what is sustainable and what isn’t. Because the IMF is a globally well regarded and well trusted organization, we Europeans have asked the IMF to take part.
“That’s what it is doing and we now have to find a common solution. It’s not easy, otherwise we wouldn’t need that many meetings.”
“I said we have a gap within the existing programme. You can see from that that we have a gap. If we didn’t have one, we wouldn’t have to consult. I hope that we’ll have a joint proposal on how we can do that today.”
“We’re constantly working. So we’ve made some progress but not so much progress that we can announce the results of today’s meeting already or we wouldn’t need a meeting.”
“We must find a way in the framework of the agreed programme with Greece on the basis of the troika report to see how we can (address) the consequences of the worsening of the economic situation... and the delays that resulted from the two elections in Greece (and) how we can close the gap.
“If we get troika proposals now, we will consult on them and if we get to a joint solution, which I hope, but don’t know, then we will make those proposals to national parliaments, which can then consult and if they agree we can get this going next week.”
“We’re going to work very constructively to see if we can find a solution for Greece. That’s what really is our goal, our purpose and our mission.”
“We will have to see how we will raise the funds related to extending the programme for Greece. We will also intensely discuss the oversight of the payout in how far the different parts of the payment can be supervised.
“Certainly there will be a lot of emphasis on privatization. You remember that in the first programme we envisioned 50 billion euros and I’m sure that not only Austria but also my other colleagues will insist that we do not deviate from this number.”
“That’s not up for debate. We are looking for a solution within the current programme. The other red line we have drawn is that we won’t take a write-down on bilateral loans that we have with Greece.”
“I hope so and I think it’s important. But I will only agree if such a deal is thorough and the information is there and I’m confident that we have the right basis to continue with Greece.
“I’m talking about what we can expect from them and we will make further agreements there. It’s also about whether their state debt is sustainable and that’s important for the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and for the Netherlands.”
“I’m quite relaxed. I will only make a decision if it has a good basis, if the information is there, if there is a plan for continuation and, indeed, if the IMF continues to work with us. That’s an important prerequisite for the Netherlands.”
“The solution has to be found in the current programme. As far as we’re concerned they can be given some extra time and those are the variations.”
EUROGROUP PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER
“It is clear that Greece has delivered.
“We must still reach an understanding on several details and I would expect that the chances are good that we will come to a final and joint solution this evening. But I’m not entirely certain... about the matter.”
ASKED IF GREECE WOULD BE GIVEN TILL 2022 TO CUT ITS DEBT TO 120 PCT OF GDP, RATHER THAN TARGET DATE OF 2020:
“This will be a point of our debate tonight.” (Reporting by Leigh Thomas, Robin Emmott, Annika Breidthardt, Robert-Jan Bartunek and John O’Donnell, compiled by Rex Merrifield)