BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Greece’s new leftist government and its international creditors failed to agree on a way forward on the country’s unpopular bailout and will try again on Monday, with time running out for a financing deal.
In seven hours of crisis talks in Brussels that ended after midnight, eurozone finance ministers were unable to agree even a joint statement on the next procedural steps. Both sides played down the setback, insisting there had been no rupture.
But Greek stock prices, which whipped higher after hours in New York on talk of an accord, sagged with disappointment when it emerged that Greece’s laconic new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis had walked away from a draft deal to extend current credit terms after conferring with fellow Greek officials.
“We had an intense discussion, constructive, covering a lot of ground, also making progress, but not enough progress yet to come to joint conclusions,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chairman of Eurogroup finance ministers, told a midnight news conference.
“We didn’t actually go into detailed proposals, we didn’t enter into negotiations on content of the programme or a programme, we simply tried to work next steps over the next couple days. We were unable to do that.”
Greece would have no further contact with experts from the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank before Monday, he said. That was the opposite of how other EU ministers understood they had left matters when they headed home an hour or so earlier.
Looking as casually confident as when he had arrived at his first such talks, Varoufakis said: “Now we are proceeding to the next meeting on Monday. We hope that by the end of that one, there is going to be a conclusion in a manner that is optimal both for the perspective of Greece and our European partners.”
Diplomats said efforts to clinch a joint statement, as it went through drafts in which language can be as important as substance, were aborted after Varoufakis consulted government colleagues.
Hard-left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has stuck to his guns, knowing those who voted him into office last month are insistent he end a bailout deal Greeks blame for worsening poverty. He rejects any extension of the current 240 billion euro package, which expires on Feb. 28, refusing to cooperate with the “troika” of EU/ECB/IMF officials overseeing Greece’s public finances and demanding a “haircut” reducing its debt.