Technical talks on Greece’s bailout not going well

Technical talks between Greece and its creditors aren΄t going well, officials said Wednesday, with each blaming the other for the snags in crucial negotiations.

Teams from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that are in Athens are getting very little information on the government΄s finances and other key topics, two European officials said.

“The line was that the Greeks are not cooperating,” said one of the officials, summarizing the institutions” account during a teleconference among senior eurozone finance ministry officials on Tuesday.

A Greek official said the technical teams had gone beyond their role as fact-finders and had sought to intervene in politics, continuing a frequent line of complaint from Athens about the so-called troika of inspectors.

The technical work is key to figuring out when Greece may run out of money and whether the rest of the eurozone is prepared to provide further support to the left-wing government.

Eurozone finance ministers agreed last month to extend Greece΄s EUR240 billion bailout by four months until the end of June. However, there has been little progress on defining reform measures in return for sustained aid, raising concerns over Greece΄s future in the eurozone.

During the teleconference, the Greek representative said his government wasn΄t prepared to talk about the country΄s finances with technical experts and instead wanted European Union leaders to discuss the issue at a summit in Brussels, one of the European officials said.

“There was a general feeling that the Greek side is completely out of touch with reality,” said the official.

Representatives of the three institutions said that based on the limited information they have, the Greek government will be able to sustain payments only for another few weeks and that the government should hold off on any new legislative measures that could affect government finances, the official said.

The Greek government official said the two sides had clashed over a new bill, due to be voted on in the parliament Wednesday, that include measures to help the poor.

The official said the cost of the bill would be covered by other measures–and therefore would have no impact on government financing–and that eurozone finance ministers had been informed of the proposed law and the equivalent measures at their meeting Monday of last week.

“[The technical teams] want to discuss politics at all levels, which is way beyond their role,” the official said.

The location and content of the talks has been a sticking point over the last two months. Greece had pushed for the talks to be held in Brussels, saying the troika΄s previous forays in the Greek capital have been disruptive and sparked protests.

But European officials insisted that some experts would need to be in Greece to access key data on government accounts, for instance, and to speak to experts at ministries.

In the hope of finding a political solution, Greece΄s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has asked to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the sidelines of an EU summit later this week.

If confirmed, the meeting would happen on Thursday or Friday on the margins of the summit.

Greece faces yet another deadline Friday, as it has to repay some EUR350 million to the International Monetary Fund and refinance some EUR1.6 billion of short-term notes.

On Tuesday, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem signaled that capital controls could be an option to keep Greece in the eurozone.

Mr. Dijsselbloem, who also heads the group of eurozone finance ministers said in a Dutch radio interview that the 2013 bailout for Cyprus proved that shutting banks and imposing capital controls contributed to the stabilization of the country΄s financial system.

“It has been explored what should happen if a country gets into major trouble. That does not necessarily have to mean exit scenarios,” Mr. Dijsselbloem said.

A Greek government spokesman criticized Mr. Dijsselbloem΄s statements. “It would be useful for everyone if Mr. Dijsselbloem respected his institutional role in the eurozone,” said the spokesman, Gabriel Sakellaridis. “We don΄t even have to repeat that Greece will not be blackmailed.”