Eurogroup meeting: First day of Greek bailout discussions ends fruitlessly

Oliver Smith
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Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde
Greek bailout negotiations ended farcically last night after an extraordinary Eurogroup meeting with Greece’s new left-wing finance minister in Brussels failed to even agree on a statement regarding the progress of talks.

“If you don’t reach a joint conclusion you can’t release a statement,” Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem told reporters last night. He said little progress had been made at the meeting.

Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, along with new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, are pushing to reform the existing deal under which Greece currently owes €237bn (£175.9bn) which equates to 174 per cent of its GDP.

Greece’s existing bailout from the European Union, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund expires at the end of February.

Although it had been hoped Greece would extend the deal, Tsipras has pledged not to, which could push the country towards a default.

“We will continue our talks on Monday... with regards to Greece,” added Dijsselbloem.

The Greek government published its own brief statement explaining: “At this Eurogroup there has been no agreement. An extension of the memorandum cannot be accepted. Negotiations will continue with the goal [of achieving] a mutually beneficial agreement.”

Earlier rumours of an agreement between Greece and the Eurogroup had rallied the euro against the dollar, however it fell after talks were revealed to have failed.

In the US the S&P 500 index finished unchanged in the earlier hours of the evening as investors were reluctant to make big bets while they waited for the outcome of the talks.

Before the meeting German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble had said that if Greece is not willing to request an extension of its bailout – the biggest in financial history – “then that’s it”, ruling out further assistance or debt forgiveness.

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