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Saturday, 21 February 2015

Greece: The Morning After - Interpreting the Eurogroup Statement and Briefings; Greek and Foreign Press Reactions

More like a ceasefire than a peace agreement? Spiegel

"Sie wirkt eher wie ein Waffenstillstandsabkommen als ein Friedensschluss".

It seems a little different in the hours before dawn. The Guardian says that the Greek bailout has been extended by four months and that Greece pledges not to roll back austerity.

That's not the wording or spin used or the impression that was given in the Greek Finance Minister's upbeat national press briefing last night. He talked, perhaps in terms of constructive ambiguity, along these lines: "The Memorandum, the MoU, is finished- it's there, but in abeyance", and gave a 'dialectical' answer - 'we've progressed and evolved'.

Kathimerini Cartoon by Andreas Petroulakis
(The Finance Minister clutching the big Babinioti Greek Dictionary/Thesaurus/Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms)

The Guardian:

"The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, will almost certainly face fierce reaction over the deal, both from hardliners in his radical left Syriza party and from the populist rightwing Anel – his junior partner in the governing coalition – for agreeing to continue with austerity measures as part of the deal, given that he was elected on an anti-austerity programme" (Jennifer Rankin in Brussels and Helena Smith in Athens).

Were we watching the same briefing? See my notes from last night's briefing.

EU Observer

"Greece has agreed to all the conditions laid out by Germany and is likely to get its bailout programme extended by another four months, provided international creditors give a green light on Monday...several sources told this website, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis was sidelined, as prime minister Alexis Tsipras spoke on the phone to conclude the deal personally"(Valentina Pop).

BBC Report

"In fact, what was agreed on Friday night guarantees there will be no fresh crisis - no fears of Greece quitting the eurozone - for a full two days....As for the substance of the Eurogroup statement, inevitably both Germany and Greece were claiming victory".

BBC Update, PM Tsripras, "We won a battle, not the war"

Reuters Report

'It also forced radical young Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras into a major climbdown since he had vowed to scrap the bailout, end cooperation with the "troika" of international lenders and roll back austerity...The two main combatants around the table put a radically different gloss on the result.
"Being in government is a date with reality, and reality is often not as nice as a dream," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters, stressing Athens would get no aid payments until its bailout programme was properly completed. "The Greeks certainly will have a difficult time to explain the deal to their voters," the conservative veteran said'.

(Also on Huffington Post)

The New Yorker

How Greece Got Outmaneuvered, by John Cassidy: "a capitulation by Syriza and a victory for Germany and the rest of the E.U. extension of the bailout...Going forward, Syriza’s policies will continue to be supervised by the hated “troika” (the European Central Bank, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund), which many Greeks hold responsible for the dire state of their country. Moreover, the Greek government has agreed to push ahead with a series of new structural reforms, some of which it will have to detail this weekend. If the troika isn’t satisfied with what Greece offers, it could still withhold some of the money that the country needs".

Fortune report

The end of the dream: Greece bows to the inevitable, Geoffrey Smith - "Syriza’s wild election promises bump up against harsh reality as the Eurozone refuses all but cosmetic changes to the bailout deal".

Wall Street Journal

"Greece struck a tenuous agreement for a four-month extension of its bailout"


'The new government was forced into a major climbdown on some electoral promises in order to secure the deal – but for some this was merely a pragmatic approach. “This is how agreements are: compromises, negotiations,” explained civil servant Antonis Fiamendos'.

Peter Spiegel Tweet @SpiegelPeter
Official tells me that if [non] troika disapproves of #Greece's Monday reform submission, we have another full #Eurogroup on Tues. 8:41 PM - 20 Feb 2015

Lafazanis: «Τέρμα Μνημόνια και τρόικα»
Λαφαζάνης: Δεν είναι στις επιλογές μας οι κεντροαριστεροδεξιές σούπες -  see More

Στη συνέντευξη, που παραχώρησε στην «Εφημερίδα των Συντακτών» πριν από την κατάληξη των διαπραγματεύσεων στο Eurogroup, ο κ. Λαφαζάνης τόνιζε «δεν πρόκειται να συνομολογήσουμε μια συμφωνία η οποία θα σκοπεύει να ακυρώσει τον πυρήνα του ριζοσπαστικού προοδευτικού μας προγράμματος».

More  «Η Ελλάδα δεν είναι όμηρος ούτε αιχμάλωτη των πιο τυφλών και δογματικών κατεστημένων κέντρων της γερμανικής Ε.Ε.», λέει στην «Εφ.Συν.» ο Παναγιώτης Λαφαζάνης: Αυτό που θέλω να υπογραμμίσω, πάντως, είναι ότι η Ελλάδα δεν είναι όμηρος ούτε αιχμάλωτη των πιο τυφλών και δογματικών κατεστημένων κέντρων της γερμανικής Ε.Ε. Να τονίσω, επίσης, ότι για τις χώρες και τους λαούς δεν υπάρχουν μονόδρομοι και πολύ περισσότερο δεν υπάρχουν για την Ελλάδα και την κυβέρνησή μας εξαναγκασμοί υποταγής σε εκβιαστικές μεθοδεύσεις. Θα υπερασπιστούμε με όλα τα δημοκρατικά μέσα που διαθέτουμε, και πρώτα από όλα με τη λαϊκή αγωνιστική στήριξη, την εθνική μας αξιοπρέπεια και το λαϊκό συμφέρον.

More on this issue

Internal Party Tensions and the 'Lafazani Wing' (Kathimerini)

Meanwhile, Real FM (Greek radio station) is playing this cheeky calypso

Some Greek reports on the outcomes:

Mignatiou article - Βαρουφάκης: Η Ελλάδα αφήνει πίσω το Μνημόνιο

John Psaropoulos, The New Athenian blog:

Greece’s newly installed left-wing government is declaring a new era for national sovereignty, the economy and relations with Europe. "Today Greece has turned a page," a triumphant government statement declared. "Negotiations could have happened all these years. Greece is neither isolated, nor is it sailing for the rocks, nor is it continuing with memoranda [of austerity]."

The Economist (Business Insider)

The Prime Minister on NERIT, YouTube

Kathimerini  Greece says eurozone deal won time as cash bled from banks

Iefimerida: SYRIZA's Communist Tendency

The Red Flags for Berlin

Decide for yourselves:

Eurogroup statement on Greece

Statement and remarks

The Eurogroup reiterates its appreciation for the remarkable adjustment efforts undertaken by Greece and the Greek people over the last years. During the last few weeks, we have, together with the institutions, engaged in an intensive and constructive dialogue with the new Greek authorities and reached common ground today.

The Eurogroup notes, in the framework of the existing arrangement, the request from the Greek authorities for an extension of the Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement (MFFA), which is underpinned by a set of commitments. The purpose of the extension is the successful completion of the review on the basis of the conditions in the current arrangement, making best use of the given flexibility which will be considered jointly with the Greek authorities and the institutions. This extension would also bridge the time for discussions on a possible follow-up arrangement between the Eurogroup, the institutions and Greece.

The Greek authorities will present a first list of reform measures, based on the current arrangement, by the end of Monday February 23. The institutions will provide a first view whether this is sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the review. This list will be further specified and then agreed with the institutions by the end of April.

Only approval of the conclusion of the review of the extended arrangement by the institutions in turn will allow for any disbursement of the outstanding tranche of the current EFSF programme and the transfer of the 2014 SMP profits. Both are again subject to approval by the Eurogroup.

In view of the assessment of the institutions the Eurogroup agrees that the funds, so far available in the HFSF buffer, should be held by the EFSF, free of third party rights for the duration of the MFFA extension. The funds continue to be available for the duration of the MFFA extension and can only be used for bank recapitalisation and resolution costs. They will only be released on request by the ECB/SSM.

In this light, we welcome the commitment by the Greek authorities to work in close agreement with European and international institutions and partners. Against this background we recall the independence of the European Central Bank. We also agreed that the IMF would continue to play its role.

The Greek authorities have expressed their strong commitment to a broader and deeper structural reform process aimed at durably improving growth and employment prospects, ensuring stability and resilience of the financial sector and enhancing social fairness. The authorities commit to implementing long overdue reforms to tackle corruption and tax evasion, and improving the efficiency of the public sector. In this context, the Greek authorities undertake to make best use of the continued provision of technical assistance.

The Greek authorities reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and timely.

The Greek authorities have also committed to ensure the appropriate primary fiscal surpluses or financing proceeds required to guarantee debt sustainability in line with the November 2012 Eurogroup statement. The institutions will, for the 2015 primary surplus target, take the economic circumstances in 2015 into account.

In light of these commitments, we welcome that in a number of areas the Greek policy priorities can contribute to a strengthening and better implementation of the current arrangement. The Greek authorities commit to refrain from any rollback of measures and unilateral changes to the policies and structural reforms that would negatively impact fiscal targets, economic recovery or financial stability, as assessed by the institutions.

On the basis of the request, the commitments by the Greek authorities, the advice of the institutions, and today's agreement, we will launch the national procedures with a view to reaching a final decision on the extension of the current EFSF Master Financial Assistance Facility Agreement for up to four months by the EFSF Board of Directors. We also invite the institutions and the Greek authorities to resume immediately the work that would allow the successful conclusion of the review.

We remain committed to provide adequate support to Greece until it has regained full market access as long as it honours its commitments within the agreed framework.

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