No deal: Greek bailout talks fail

Negotiations in Brussels lasted into the wee hours this morning, but the Greek and Eurozone finance ministers couldn't even agree to disagree.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 20 Feb 2015

Large groups of European ministers aren't exactly known for getting stuff done, but even they would have expected some progress after seven hours locked in a Brussels meeting room. Despite this, the 19 Eurozone finance ministers who met last night were unable to reach any kind of agreement.

Unconventional Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis had been meeting his Eurozone counterparts to discuss the bailout agreement which expires on February 28th. Greece's new Syriza government wants a reduction of its debt and an end to the hated austerity conditions attached to the bailout by the 'troika' of international lenders.

Eurozone leaders, led by Germany, have resisted such moves, saying Greece must honour its debts. As Greece still needs at the very least some short term cash to prop up its banking system, a failure to reach agreeement before the end of the month could lead to a collapse of its finances and a dreaded, possibly contagious 'Grexit' from the Euro.

By standing still, the continent took a step closer to this outcome yesterday. Indeed, the deadlock was so complete that the two sides not only failed to agree on a framework or joint statement, but also failed even to discuss any concrete solutions at all in their seven hour meeting.

'We didn’t actually go into detailed proposals,' said the chair of the 'Eurogroup' of finance ministers (not an Abba tribute group sadly), Jeroen Dijisselbloem. 'We simply tried to work next steps over the next couple days. We were unable to do that.' Not a great sign.

Varoufakis was somewhat more upbeat. 'The eurogroup was never meant to settle any issues,' he told the Greek press. 'I was invited because I'm the new kid on he block, so to speak. I was given a wonderful opprotunity and a very warm welcome to present our views.' Isn't that nice?

There are rumours that an agreement had been reached at around 11pm, after which the leader of the anti-austerity group Wolfgang Schäuble left the meeting, only for Varoufakis to back out after consulting his Syriza colleagues.

If that's a negotiating strategy, it's pushing it very close. The talks will resume on Monday, which is widely seen as the unofficial deadline for reaching an agreement. Although a behind the scenes deal (likely an emergency extension of the bailout) could always come between then and February 28th, time is clearly running out.


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