Greece and the Eurogroup blamed each other for the early break down in crunch talks over the latter’s bailout programme on Monday.
Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem indicated that Greece, whose public finances are running dry, now has until the end of the week to ask for a bailout extension or risk being without a European financial backstop.
The existing bailout is set to expire on 28 February, but in a press conference Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis warned the Eurogroup against issuing any ultimatum.
Varoufakis claimed he was “perfectly happy” to sign a draft communique for an extension presented to him by EU financial commissioner Pierre Moscovici which he said was later withdrawn by Dijsselbloem in favour of a draft that undid any progress made.
Monday’s talks had been seen as a final make-or-break session as time is running out for any bailout extension application to be approved in national parliaments. It is feared that the failure to do so would leave Greece hurtling towards a Eurozone exit.
Dijesselbloem today said Athens has until Friday to request an extension. He argued that “more time” was needed to negotiate over a new bailout programme, but that could only come if Greece made the first move.
The general feeling in the Eurogroup is still that the best way forward would be for the Greek authorities to seek an extension of the programme.We can use this week, but that’s about it. We simply need more time. The best way to do that is to extend the current programme.
Varoufakis was also confident about Greece staying in the Eurozone, saying he had “no doubt that within the next 48 hours Europe will come together.”
However, Raoul Ruparel of the Open Europe think tank argued that the left-wing Syriza now faces a tough choice in how to proceed with a Eurogroup that’s playing hardball.
It [Greece] is looking increasingly alone and the best outcome it can probably hope for in the short term is getting some favourable phrasing or wording in the extension. Whether or not this will fly with the hard-line left-wing Syriza party or with the general public is another question altogether.