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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 14 February 2015
24 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2015 GREECE Greece agrees to talk to creditors in EU debt progress Greece agreed on Thursday to talk to its creditors about the way out of its hated international bailout, in a political climb-down that could prevent its new leftist-led government running out of money as early as next month. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, attending his first European Union summit, agreed with the chairman of eurozone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, that Greek officials would meet representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. The meeting was organised for yesterday. "(We) agreed today to ask the institutions to engage with the Greek authorities to start work on a technical assessment of the common ground between the current program and the Greek government's plans," Dijsselbloem tweeted. This, he said, would pave the way for crucial talks between eurozone finance ministers next Monday. The shift by Tsipras marked a potential first step towards resolving a crisis that has raised the risk of Greece being forced to abandon the euro, which could spark wider financial turmoil. A Greek official in Athens said it was a positive move towards a new financial arrangement with creditors. It came less than 24 hours after eurozone finance ministers failed to agree on a statement on the next procedural steps because Athens did not want any reference to the unpopular bailout or the ‘troika’ of lenders enforcing it. Tsipras won the election last month, promising to scrap the 240 billion euro ($273 billion) bailout, end cooperation with the troika, reverse austerity measures that have cast many Greeks into poverty and negotiate a reduction in the debt burden. The procedural step forward came after the ECB's Governing Council extended a cash lifeline for Greek banks for another week, authorising an extra 5 billion euros in emergency lending assistance (ELA) by the Greek central bank. The council decided in a telephone conference to review the program on February 18. Timing the review right after euro zone finance ministers meet again next week keeps Athens on a short leash. The ECB authorised the temporary funding expedient for banks last week when it GREEK HEADLINES DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM AVGHI: Dynamic support from thousands of people who gathered in squares. KATHIMERINI: EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Spring in Athens ... gloom in Brussels. Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks to the media as he arrives for a European Summit of Heads of States and Governments at the EU Council headquarters. PHOTO: EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ. stopped accepting Greek government bonds in return for liquidity. Arriving for his first European Union summit, Tsipras told reporters: "I'm very confident that together we can find a mutually viable solution in order to heal the wounds of austerity, to tackle the humanitarian crisis across the EU and bring Europe back to the road of growth and social cohesion." Chancellor Angela Merkel, vilified by the Greek left as Europe's ‘austerity queen’, said Germany was prepared for a compromise and finance ministers had a few more days to consider Greece's proposals before next Monday's meeting. "Europe always aims to find a compromise, and that is the success of Europe," she said on arrival in Brussels. "Germany is ready for that. However, it must also be said that Europe's credibility naturally depends on us respecting rules and being reliable with each other." The two leaders came faceto-face for the first time in the EU Council chamber. According to Greek aides, a smiling Merkel congratulated Tsipras on his election and said: "I hope we will have good cooperation despite the difficulties." Tsipras smiled back and replied: "I hope so." Greek officials said no private meeting was planned between the two during the one-day EU summit. They insisted to Greek reporters that Tsipras had not agreed to deal with the troika but with a body called the Eurogroup Working Group. RESPECT DISCIPLINE Other leaders said it was up to Greece to respect budget discipline and economic reform commitments made by previous governments if it wanted continued aid. The two sides remain far apart on the subject of Greece's future funding, fiscal and economic policies. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has proposed swapping eurozone loans for longdated GDP-linked bonds that would pay interest as the economy recovers, and ECB holdings of Greek debt for interest-bearing perpetual bonds with no repayment deadline. ECB policymaker Jens Weidmann, head of Germany's Bundesbank, said the official loans already had long maturities, low interest rates and in some cases an interest repayment moratorium, so rescheduling would not help Greek finances in the short term. Greece should only receive more support if it complies with its existing agreements, he said, adding that a relaxation of Greek targets would be "counter-productive" to restoring investor confidence. ECB executive board member Peter Praet said the central bank would apply its ELA rules to Greece. "It is key that the banks benefiting from emergency liquidity assistance remain solvent," he told the Financial Times. His comments appeared to signal that the central bank could cut the cash lifeline if Greece failed to reach a deal with its creditors before the bailout expires at the end of this month. That would expose Greek banks to a risk of capital flight and collapse, which analysts say could in turn trigger a Greek exit from the eurozone. Highlighting the precariousness of Greece's position, tax revenues fell about 1 billion euros short of the budget target in January as Greeks held off payments before the Jan. 25 election, anticipating that the new leftist government would scrap an unpopular property levy. SHORT SHRIFT A Greek official played down the threat to the banking system if the ECB were to cut off funding after February 28. "If we have a conclusion that says there is a program in place, or if we are close to an agreement, no liquidity problems will exist," he said. The eurozone, the ECB and IMF are insisting on firm conditions for any ‘bridge’ financing. Other governments, including Ireland, Portugal and Spain, which have had to seek help under tough conditions, are also keen their own voters do not see Tsipras winning a better deal than they did. EU officials play down the risk of Greece being forced out of the eurozone, something Tsipras and most Greeks do not want and which could send destabilising ripples across the bloc as it faces a confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. However, the politics of the Greek debate are difficult. "The real risk in Athens seems to be that Tsipras has raised expectations to such an extent that he could find it extremely difficult to back down from his rhetoric and strike a deal which the rest of the eurozone could accept," Berenberg Bank economists wrote in a note on Thursday. Source: Reuters ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Rift with Brussels over the ... name of the new memorandum. ESTIA: Landscape of rift at Wednesday's Eurogroup. ETHNOS: Extension to agony for agreement or rift. Thriller and impasse at the Eurogroup. IMERISIA: Thriller until Monday. NAFTEMPORIKI: Extension to the agony. RIZOSPASTIS: The people get ready for new struggles. TA NEA: First round without result. The reinvention of ERT ERT returns to the diaspora A bill for the re-establishment of public Greek broadcaster ERT will be submitted to the parliament next month, announced Greek Minister of State Nikos Pappas. The bill for the re-establishment of the network will provide a clear and statutory legal framework to ensure the future of the network and that all factors are taken into consideration. "The government decided to open ERT because the people decided to open ERT. The wound that was created in the body of democracy will heal," he said. The Minister of State also went on to say that any past employees of ERT who still wished to work for the network could return if they wished. He clarified that their em- ployment would not burden the state's budget as it would continue to be funded through a fee levy on every Greek household's electricity bill.
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