Greece has denied being intransigent in its dealings with eurozone officials, ahead of another crucial week for the cash-strapped country.
Greece’s finance ministry dismissed on Sunday a report by a German newspaper which reported that eurozone officials were “disappointed” by Greece’s failure to come up with plans for economic reforms at last week’s talks in Brussels.
The mood between Greece’s leftist government and its eurozone partners has remained tense during negotiations to determine whether or not the country qualifies for further financial aid from international lenders.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) cited officials at last week’s meeting as saying they were shocked by the lack of progress, and that the new Greek representative just asked where the money was – “like a taxi driver” – and insisted his country would soon be bankrupt.
Eurozone officials disagreed with this assessment, saying Athens was still able to meet its international obligations, and regarded its ability to pay public sector wages and pensions as a domestic problem, according to the report. They deplored Greece’s unwillingness to discuss cuts to public sector pensions.
The finance ministry in Athens hit back on Sunday, saying: “When the readers of FAS read the minutes … the newspaper will have difficulty justifying its headline and the content of its article. Such reports undermine the negotiation and Europe.”
Greece made a €450m loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund last week. A further €747m payment is due on 12 May. There are fears that Athens could run out of cash in coming weeks. It needs to pay out more than €1.5bn of social security payments for April this week.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said last week that talks between Greece and its creditors had been “difficult on almost a daily basis”. She added: “What really matters now is for Greece and the three institutions to get on with the work so we can identify together the measures that will take Greece out of the very bad economic situation it could be in if those measures are not taken.”
A meeting of deputy finance ministers – called the Euro Working Group – last Thursday gave Athens six working days to come up with a convincing economic reform plan before eurozone finance ministers meet on 24 April to decide whether to unlock €7.2bn of bailout funds.
Greece has been on the verge of bankruptcy since 2009 and has depended on rescue loans totalling €240bn from the EU and IMF to stay afloat.
Technical teams from Greece and its international lenders held a teleconference on Saturday to set the agenda of talks in the coming days, a Greek finance ministry official said. Negotiations are expected to restart on Monday, between technical officials in Athens and Brussels.
Analysts at Daiwa Capital Markets said: “An intense week lies ahead for the cash-starved Greek government ... The onus [is] on Greece to smooth out the many points of contention with the Brussels group next week in continuous discussions at both technical and political levels.”
Meanwhile, the head of the country’s Orthodox church said at the weekend it was willing to put its land and property up for development to raise money to repay Greek debt. The church owns more land than any party except the state, including prime land and property in Athens.
“Come, let’s develop [property] for Greece,” Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens told Greek TV during the Greek Orthodox Easter holiday. “If needed by the state to cooperate, we’re here.”
However, he ruled out selling off property and did not spell out what kind of business developments he was thinking of.
Critics say the church owns too much property and does not pay enough tax, at a time when ordinary Greeks’ bills have soared during the economic crisis.
This article was written by Julia Kollewe, for theguardian.com on Sunday 12th April 2015 18.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010