Greece must be realistic in debt talks, says Eurogroup chief


THE HAGUE: Greece needs to be realistic when negotiating debt relief, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem cautioned on Tuesday, as Athens runs out of time and money to settle a deal.

“The Greeks must adapt their expectations to reality,” Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister, told local television channel RTL Z during his weekly talk.

That reality is that “there’s little money and besides, unaided, Greece at the moment won’t pull through,” said Dijsselbloem.

He welcomed the appointment of Dutch-born economist Euclid Tsakalotos to Greece’s negotiating team, even though it would not solve all problems between Athens and the Eurogroup.

Greece’s hard-left government has reshuffled its EU-IMF negotiating team, giving the moderate Tsakalotos a key role to keep a close eye on the talks that have made little progress under maverick Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.

The acrimonious talks have seen little progress over the last two months and sometimes “even went backwards,” said Dijsselbloem.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said earlier Tuesday he was confident that a deal could be reached by early May.

“Our goal . . . is to reach a first agreement this week if possible, or next week at the latest,” Tsipras said in an interview with Greece’s Star TV.

Greece has been trying to negotiate a deal that would unlock 7.2 billion euros ($7.8 billion) in remaining EU-IMF bailout money that the debt-ridden country needs to avoid default and a possible exit from the euro.

But the Tsipras government, elected in January on an anti-austerity ticket, has resisted pressure to continue with a policy of cuts in return for the cash.

Tsipras said that if his government was pressured by Greece’s creditors into a deal conflicting with its electoral program, he would put the issue to a referendum.

Dijsselbloem, however, said a referendum “will cost money and create great political uncertainty.”

“I don’t think we have the time, neither do the Greeks have time,” he added. AFP


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