Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 12th 2015 Contents A25
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BRUSSELS---Greece and its
partners in the 19-country euro-
zone dug in for tough talks yes-
terday as the country's finance
minister unveiled the new Greek
government's first concrete pro-
posals on how to lighten its
The emergency meeting of the
single currency zone's finance
ministers is the first since the rad-
ical-left Syriza party won the gen-
eral election in Greece last month
on a pledge to drastically reduce
the burden of the country's bailout
and the associated budget aus-
Popular support for a change
of course is strong in Greece, with
thousands taking to the streets
across the country yesterday to
give their backing to the govern-
ment. Greek police say about
15,000 people attended a rally in
Athens' central Syntagma Square.
Another 5,000 gathered in the
northern city of Thessaloniki.
While acknowledging the need
to listen to the proposals from
Greek Finance Minister Yanis
Varoufakis, top eurozone officials
played down expectations of a
Since winning the Greek general
election last month, the Greek
government has outlined its broad
ambition but it has still to present
concrete proposals. Varoufakis has
said he wants to scrap Greece's
current bailout programme and
agree on a new one. That would
take time, though, and Greece's
current bailout programme ends
after February 28.
Without the bailout's financial
support, Greece faces bankrupt-
cy---and a possible exit from the
eurozone, a development that
could further damage Greece's
economy, at least in the short-
term, and throw global financial
markets into turmoil.
Varoufakis has suggested Greece
be granted a "bridging loan" to
tide it over for a few months. In
return, Greece would commit to
further reforms, particularly on
how to deal with the country's
notoriously inefficient tax system.
"I'm confident we are going to
have a very constructive meeting,"
So far, eurozone officials have yet
to embrace the idea of a new bailout
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the
meetings of eurozone finance ministers,
promised to listen to Greece's plans
but suggested a conclusive deal was
unlikely yesterday. The finance min-
isters will meet again Monday.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang
Schaeuble agreed that a deal Wednes-
day was unlikely and that the meeting
would be an opportunity for both sides
to define "red lines."
"We will listen to the proposals of
the Greek government, then we will
see what we can do," he said. "I do
not expect that we have any results
today. We'll see, but it depends on
what he (Varoufakis) tells us."
The new Greek government won
elections last month on a mandate to
get concessions from Greece's creditors,
which also includes the International
The IMF's managing director, Chris-
tine Lagarde, was also at the meeting
as was European Central Bank Pres-
ident Mario Draghi.
On the eve of the meeting, Prime
Minister Alexis Tsipras said there was
"no way back" for his government in
its quest to rewrite the bailout terms.
Tsipras is due to meet his EU coun-
terparts for a first summit meeting on
Thursday, but the leaders are expected
to shy away from any negotiations on
the bailout deal, leaving that to their
Despite the divisions, the prevailing
view in the markets is that some sort
of compromise deal will be thrashed
out over coming days. Still, markets
have been volatile over the past two
weeks amid the uncertainty. After big
gains on Tuesday, markets were down
on Wednesday. The main stock index
in Athens fell 4 per cent Wednesday.
That uncertainty was evident in the
government's latest sale of 13-week
Treasury bills at a significantly higher
interest rate than at a similar sale last
month. The higher rate indicates
investors are more worried about
Greece not repaying its debts.
Greece raised 1.13 billion euros at a
rate of 2.5 per cent, up from 2.15 per
cent at the last such auction on January
14. The European Central Bank has
said that Greece can issue up to 15 bil-
lion euros in such short-term debt.
The Greek finance ministry wants to
be allowed to issue a further eight bil-
lion euros-worth. (AP)
Eurozone, Greece face off
as key bailout talks begin
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