Eurozone Chief Say Frozen Greek Debt Relief Talks Will Resume Again

Eurozone chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem. (AP Photo/Thierry Monasse)

ATHENS – Eurozone chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said debt relief talks suspended after Greece gave unapproved pension bonuses will pick up again anyway.

Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras got away with thumbing his nose at the Eurozone when he gave the holiday handouts to pensioners and said he would roll back a Value Added Tax (VAT) hike on Aegean islands hosting refugees.

The creditors had immediately frozen the debt relief plan agreed earlier in December and said the talks could resume now that Tsipras’ coalition, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, far-right, jingoistic Independent Greeks, put a guarantee in writing they would behave from now on and clear decisions with their European partners.

It was left to Finance Minister Euclid Tskalotos, a Marxist economist forced into an embarrassing surrender to Capital lenders, to pen the letter and send it to Eurozone officials, satisfying them for now.

That was part of the conditions for resuming talks on a staggered, mostly-delayed payout of 86 billion euros ($89.89 billion) in a third bailout that Tsipras said he would never seek nor accept as part of his anti-austerity promises, but did both, breaking his vows.

“I’m happy to conclude that we have cleared the way … to go ahead with the decision-making procedures for the short-term debt measures, which will be conducted in January,” Dijsselbloem said in a statement, the news agency Reuters reported.

The Eurogroup, or group of finance ministers of countries that are members of the single European currency, had agreed to devise a plan that would give Greece measures to extend repayment of lower-interest loan rates.

That would save the country about 20 percent of a 200-billion euro ($209.05 billion) debt load after 44 years – in 2060 when those who made today’s decisions will be long gone – and let both sides wait until after German and Dutch elections next year to talk about other measures.

Germany is the biggest contributor to 326 billion euros ($340.75 billion) in three rescue packages since 2010 and Dijsselbloem is also the Dutch Finance Minister, having to explain to voters there why they could be saddled with picking up the cost of Greece’s wild spending orgies for decades if the loans go wrong.

Tsipras said the pension bonuses, given after he has decimated their benefits far beyond the handouts, didn’t violate the third bailout talk conditions but critics said he did it to slow a precipitous slide in his popularity after giving in to the European Union, European Central Bank, European Stability Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund.

Dijsselbloem said the European Stability Mechanism, which oversees disbursements, can continue working toward a decision on the modest debt relief plan.

“This again confirms that we continue to work constructively together towards a sustainable financial and economic future for Greece,” he said, disputing most economic analysts who said the country’s debt is unsustainable and both sides are pretending there’s a resolution.