The Latest: Greece denies report of temporary Grexit

The Latest: Greece denies report of temporary Grexit

BRUSSELS (AP) — The latest from Greece’s financial crisis (all times local):


7:25 p.m.

The Greek government is denying a report that the German finance ministry has proposed a temporary, five-year euro exit for Greece.

Theodoros Mihopoulos who heads Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ office, said in a tweet that the report in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper “is completely denied.”

According to the report, the German finance ministry also proposed that the Greek government sells off some 50 billion euros ($56 billion) in unspecified property assets to pay off debts. The report said that in exchange, Greece would remain in the European Union and receive additional “growth enhancing, humanitarian and technical assistance”.

Eurozone finance ministers are meeting in Brussels to assess the Greek government’s economic proposals that it hopes will pave the way to a third bailout of the country. Without a deal, Greece faces the prospect of an exit from the euro.


5:45 p.m.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos has been told what he needs to do to allay some of the concerns of his peers in the 19-country eurozone.

Luxembourg Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna spelled it out as clearly as any other as he arrived Saturday for discussions over Greece’s request for a third bailout and its reform proposals.

“It is important to find out the concrete steps and also how those proposals are going to translate into legislative initiatives,” Gramegna said. “If we have draft bills and if we have the prospect of a vote in the Greek parliament, there will be confidence.”

Gramegna, whose country holds the revolving European Union presidency, said he was ready to broach the issue of Greece’s debt sustainability and what can be done to ease it. However, he said “finalizing it is another issue.”


3:45 p.m

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s finance minister, warned that that Saturday’s meeting of the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers over Greece’s bailout request was going to be tough.

Schaeuble, who has taken a hard line on Greece over recent months, says the Greek government will have to do a lot more than just say it wants to reform if it’s going to get the three-year bailout it requested for earlier this week.

“We will definitely not be able to rely on promises,” he said when arriving at the talks in Brussels.

Schaeuble put the blame for the current crisis firmly on the shoulders of the radical left Syriza government that was elected in January. The “hopeful” situation regarding Greece at the end of last year has been “destroyed by the last months,” he said.

Schaeuble said Saturday’s discussions would be “extraordinarily difficult.”


3:35 p.m.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said he would continue to play the mediating role at the meeting of the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers, in line with recent efforts by the country.

He conceded that the Greek government had a lot of persuading to do following a marked deterioration in relations with international creditors.

Sapin said the whole eurogroup needs to be convinced that the economic reform proposals the Greek government has made in order to get its hands on a three-year bailout will actually be enacted.

Sapin said Greece’s European partners want to hear the nitty-gritty: “How are you going to do it? At what moment are you doing to do it? At what tempo are you going to do it.”

Providing answers to those questions, will help drive confidence, Sapin said.


3:15 p.m.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone’s top official, is the latest in a long line of Greece’s creditors to publicly bemoan the lack of trust with the Greek government as crunch bailout discussion begin.

Arriving for a meeting of the 19 eurozone finance ministers, Dijsselbloem said there’s still “a major issue of trust” to be grappled with before creditors are able to back another bailout of Greece.

Since the new radical left Greek government was elected in January, talks with creditors have failed to make much headway. Relations between Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s finance minister until last week, and many of his peers in the eurozone were particularly frosty.

Convincing them that the Greek government is serious is the task facing Varoufakis’ replacement, Euclid Tsakalotos, at Saturday’s meeting.

“We are still a long way out, both on the issue of content as on the tougher issue of trust,” said Dijsselbloem.


3:00 p.m.

Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan sought to downplay expectations that a decisive deal over Greece’s bailout request will emerge at Saturday’s meeting of the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers.

Arriving for talks in Brussels with his peers in the 19-country eurozone, Padoan said the purpose of the meeting was “not about striking a deal tonight.”

The ministers will assess Greece’s bailout request and its accompanying economic reform proposals, which won the overwhelming backing of the Greek parliament early Saturday. On Sunday, the European Union’s 28 leaders will meet to discuss the Greek crisis. Without a bailout deal, Greece faces the prospect of going bankrupt and leaving the euro.

“We’re here with an open mind to reach a green light, an OK, for tomorrow’s negotiation,” he said.


2:45 p.m.

French government experts have been advising the Greek government in recent days as it tries to secure a deal with creditors to stave off financial disaster.

A French government official said the consultations have focused on Greece’s reform agenda rather than any restructuring of the country’s debts, and that they have been carried out in conference calls and in western capitals, but not in Athens.

France’s Socialist government has sought to play a mediating role between Greece and many of its creditors, particularly Germany, who are resistant to offering Athens another bailout.

Ahead of Saturday’s meeting of the eurogroup, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin met separately with the eurozone’s top official, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, and Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, according to another French official.

The officials were not authorized to be publicly named.

—By Angela Charlton in Paris.


2:35 p.m.

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he will assess the Greek government’s economic proposals in terms of what impact they have on growth

Arriving for talks with his peers in the 19-country eurozone, Noonan said Greece also needs to do more to rebuild trust with its European partners.

“It’s very hard to stimulate an economy on the demand side when you’re doing corrective work, so they need more supply-side initiatives,” Noonan said.

The Greek economy has shrunk by a quarter over the past few years while unemployment and poverty rates have swelled alarmingly.

Noonan also urged the Greek government to use its current authority to legislate reforms in the next week or two.

“I think trust is now being rebuilt in the relationship with Greece and would hope that trust will continue to be rebuilt today,” he said.


2:15 p.m.

Eric Wiebes, who represents the Dutch government at meetings of eurozone finance ministers, says Greece still has a way to go to regain the trust of its peers having failed to deliver many commitments that were part of the country’s previous bailout packages.

Arriving for a meeting in Brussels, Wiebes said he, and others, are “very worried” about the Greek government’s commitment to reform.

The country’s state secretary pointed to the fact that many of the reform proposals that the Greek government got through parliament early Saturday were similar to those rejected overwhelmingly in a referendum just six days ago.

“We are discussing a proposal that is very similar to the proposal that was rejected massively less than a week ago,” said Wiebes, who represents the Netherlands because the country’s finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, is president of the eurogroup.


1:55 p.m.

Finance ministers from the 19-country eurozone were arriving in Brussels for a crucial meeting that could determine whether Greece can retain its place in the euro.

They come knowing that the Greek parliament overwhelmingly passed early Saturday a package of reform and austerity measures that the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hopes will convince creditors to grant his country a three-year bailout.

The response to the proposals appears to have assuaged some concerns in Europe but it appears Greece will still have to do more.

A source close to the negotiations said international creditors have found the Greek package “under certain conditions … as a basis for discussion.” The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks, says creditors were still looking for stronger commitments and more urgent action on several issues.


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