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Brussels hosts Greece debt crisis talks

16 February 2015 20:35

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Prospects for Greece to stay in the euro zone hangs in the balance as the bloc’s finance ministers gather in Brussels on Monday to discuss Athens’ debt crisis with little hope for a breakthrough.

The ministers are tasked with producing a deal that will keep Europe’s most indebted state solvent and which is acceptable to both sides.

Similar discussions to find a common ground hit a deadlock last week.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said that Monday’s meeting in Brussels will be difficult.

Tsipras has already declared an end to the austerity program imposed by a troika of creditors: the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

He has also made it clear that he wants Greece’s current bailout deal to be replaced by a new “bridging program” until September.

In response, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Monday described Athens’ behavior as irresponsible, saying that he’s very skeptical of Greece’s ability to reach a new debt deal with its euro zone partners.

“From what I’ve heard about the technical discussions at the weekend, I’m very skeptical,” said Schaeuble, whose country is the biggest contributor to Greece’s 240 billion-euro ($274 billion) twin bailouts and the chief advocate of economic reforms in return for aid. “But we’ll get a report today and then we’ll see,” he was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

Greek stocks and bonds dropped as Schaeuble’s comments were echoed by colleagues from Malta to France.

Failure to strike a deal by 28 February, when the current rescue expires, risks leaving Greece adrift without funds to keep banks afloat and to pay salaries, triggering a chain reaction that could put the country’s euro membership in jeopardy.

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