Europeans just love pushing things to the wire. Final talks between Eurogroup finance ministers over another bailout for Greece have been pushed to Saturday for now, leaving precious little time before the essentially bankrupt country has to pay the IMF €1.6bn (£1.1bn) on Tuesday.
The troika of creditors (the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission) have offered a five-month €12bn extension of the current €240bn bailout programme in return for reforms, according to AFP. It’s not clear yet, though, whether the Greeks have accepted said offer - which would only kick the can down the road at any rate.
The two sides have been doing their best to wring whatever they can out of the other. After a 45-minute meeting this morning between Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, French president Francois Hollande and the woman with the purse strings, Germany’s Angela Merkel, the Greeks released a statement saying they ‘did not understand why creditors were insisting on such hard measures.’
Meanwhile, a German finance ministry spokesman said the troika’s offer was ‘very generous’ and that ‘it is now very clear it is up to the Greek side to make their contribution.’
The sticking points are still reportedly over the Greeks refusing to raise VAT on electricity and medicines or cut pensions and public sector wages. And even if the Greek government accepts the offer, they still have to get it passed in parliament, where hard left Syriza MPs are increasingly unhappy with the reported concessions.
It’s all getting pretty tiring – and not just for journalists who have used up all the synonyms for apocalypse. As European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker put it, ‘We cannot take the right decisions when we are tired.’
But decisions must be made, so powernaps it is for the exhausted negotiating teams. And if the bailout is extended by five months the fun will start all over again in the autumn. It’s tricky enough to get a €12bn rescue package to the table, let alone even talking about substantively reducing the Greeks’ debt mountain.