13 March 2015
Last updated at 19:21
Jean-Claude Juncker: “I do not think we have made sufficient progress but we will try to push in the direction of a successful conclusion”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has criticised the slow pace of progress in talks over Greece’s debt, since last month’s interim deal.
At a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Brussels, Mr Juncker said he was “not satisfied”.
Mr Tsipras needs EU support for reforms to unlock vital funds, avoid possible bankruptcy and a eurozone exit.
The leftist leader has pledged to end austerity – but his plans have met resistance from Greece’s EU creditors.
Greece negotiated a four-month extension to its bailout last month after tense talks with creditors.
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Eurozone leaders are ready to extend help on Greece’s EUR240bn (£176bn; $272bn) bailout until the end of June.
To persuade the EU of its credit-worthiness, Greece has announced a series of reforms. But it also wants the EU to agree new terms for the long-term repayment of its debts.
If no agreement is reached, Greece risks being unable to meet its obligations. Within the next two weeks alone, it needs EUR6bn (£4.3bn; $6.4bn) to pay its creditors.
Alexis Tsipras: “We are doing our part, and we expect our partners to do their own”
Mr Juncker said he was “not satisfied with the developments in recent weeks”.
“I don’t think that we have made sufficient progress, but we’ll try to push in the direction of a successful conclusion of the issues we have to deal with.”
However, he ruled out failure in the talks, which could precipitate Greece’s exit from the eurozone.
“I am totally excluding a failure, I don’t want a failure. I would like Europeans to go together. This is not the time for division,” he said.
Speaking alongside Mr Juncker, Mr Tsipras said he remained optimistic. “If there is political will, everything is possible,” he said.
The two men agreed to set up a new task force to help oversee the funds Greece receives from the EU. The team will be led by former Latvian leader, Valdis Dombrovskis, along with a Greek minister, who has yet to be appointed.
In an earlier meeting with the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, Mr Tsipras urged the EU to back growth in Greece.
“Now is the time to give hope to the Greek people, not only ‘implement, implement, implement’ and ‘obligations, obligations, obligations,'” said Mr Tsipras.
Analysts have described last month’s interim bailout agreement as a climbdown for the Greek government, which rose to power on promises to have half of the country’s debt rewritten off.
Mr Tsipras has defended the deal, but some on the hard left have accused Syriza of going back on pre-election pledges.
Even if the bailout extension goes through, Greece still faces the huge task of trying to service its debt obligations.
It will need to flesh out its reform programme in detail by April and prove that reforms are bedding down before receiving a final bailout disbursement of EUR7.2bn.
But in the meantime Greece has to repay several billion euros in maturing debts, including about EUR2bn to the IMF in March, and EUR6.7bn in European Central Bank bonds maturing in July and August.
Combat tax evasion
Commit not to roll back already introduced privatisations, but review privatisations not yet implemented
Introduce collective bargaining, stopping short of raising the minimum wage immediately
Tackle Greece’s “humanitarian crisis” with housing guarantees and free medical care for the uninsured unemployed, with no overall public spending increase
Reform public sector wages to avoid further wage cuts, without increasing overall wage bill
Achieve pensions savings by consolidating funds and eliminating incentives for early retirement – not cutting payments
Reduce the number of ministries from 16 to 10, cutting special advisers and fringe benefits for officials