May 6, 2016
Monday was supposed to be the day when eurozone finance ministers flew to Brussels for an emergency eurogroup meeting (just their first of 2016!) to agree a way forward on Greece’s star-crossed €86n third bailout. But despite weeks of intensive talks, negotiators are no closer to a deal then they were when they were sent back to Athens two months ago.
Last night, Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund chief, sent a letter to all 19 finance ministers ahead of the Monday meeting with her demands: drop all the talk about new austerity measures and quickly agree a plan for debt relief so that a deal can be met before a possible Greek default in July. We got a hold of the letter, and have posted a news story on its contents here. But as is our practice at the Brussels Blog, we thought we’d offer up an annotated version of the full text, sent to national capitals last night:
Dear minister:This is the main news in the letter: until now, negotiators have been trying to sequence three different sets of agreements in order. First, they wanted to agree a core set of reforms that were originally part of the new bailout programme. Second, and this was a relatively new idea, they were to agree a set of “contingency measures” that would kick in if the Greek programme veered off course. Third would come debt relief. Lagarde is essentially saying here that trying to do this sequentially makes no sense. She also is clearly signalling the “contingency measures” talks – which have been holding up progress for a month – are becoming fruitless.
Program discussions between Greece and the institutions have made progress in recent weeks, but significant gaps remain to be bridged before an agreement can be reached that would include the IMF under one of our program facilities. I think it is time for me to clarify our position, and to explain the reasons why we believe that specific measures, debt restructuring, and financing must now be discussed simultaneously.