The informal Eurogroup held in Sofia last week was rich in information about the next steps of Greece when the current Adjustment Programme ends next August, after more than 8 years of successive austerity packages under the cover of bail-out intentions of its EU partners.
For one, Eurogroup chairman Mario Senteno made it known that Athens would not ask for a precautionary credit line to be made available after the end of the Programme. Benoît Coeuré, speaking on behalf of the ECB, joined forces with the IMF in asking for “strong and credible debt relief” to be made available to Greece, so that the country would face the capital markets through which it would have to finance its (rolled over) external debt henceforth.
For the ECB, for debt relief to be credible it would have to kick in automatically and be front-loaded; still, the German position on the matter seems unmoved in assorting any sort of relief conceded conditional to (well… credible) monitoring of the Greek economy and the continuing implementation of structural reforms.
French Finance Minister Bruno Lemaire echoed the E.U. Commission’s position that “a clear, credible overall framework” should be formed for Greece to face the markets, while Senteno suggested that such a post-Programme monitoring would prove useful “to further aid Greece in implementing necessary reforms” (This last position may well remind one of the earlier Task Force which was supposed to assist Greece in implementing previous Adjustment Programs. Not an edifying experience, that).
All along, the German position remained conspicuously vague: Olav Scholz, successor to Wolfgang Schaeuble, remains reticent to make Berlin’s intention known.
Still, it is a well-known fact of life that “Europe” is like soccer, which proverbially is a game played by several players – but invariably won by Germany!