Plans for potential Greek exit from euro zone played down
European Union finance ministers, meeting in the Latvian capital of Riga, played down speculation Saturday that they are making plans for a potential Greek exit from the euro zone.
They also expressed hope that peer criticism would encourage Greece to implement economic reforms necessary to unlock the final payment of the bailout package offered by the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.
The president of the Eurogroup, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said he hoped “some extra urgency” would be applied to the process, following the “critical” meeting of the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers the day before.
At the ministers’ meeting on Friday, Greece was criticized for not being proactive in preparing and presenting required reform measures and honoring an approaching deadline. Athens is quickly running out of cash and without the remaining money from its bailout fund would not be able to pay its debts.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble hinted that Berlin, Greece’s biggest European creditor, was preparing for a possible Greek default.
Speaking to reporters after a tense meeting of his counterparts Friday, Schaeuble was asked if eurozone finance ministers were working on a “Plan B” if negotiations on funding Athens fail.
“You shouldn’t ask responsible politicians about alternatives,” Schaeuble replied, adding that one may need imagination to envisage what could happen.
Schaeuble indicated that if he answered in the affirmative, he would trigger panic.
Two months ago, Greece secured an agreement from the eurozone to receive the last installment of about $7.7 billion, but only if it presented mutually agreed reforms.
Meanwhile, Greece’s governors and other local officials agreed Saturday to lend cash to the central government after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave them assurances that the current situation would last only a short period of time.
The Greek parliament approved a decree late Friday to force local entities to lend cash to the central government, despite protests by municipalities and labor unions.