Eurozone Finance Chiefs Hold Back 970M Euro Installment for Greece

European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici, left, talks to Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, right, during an Eurogroup Finance Ministers meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Monday, March 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

With Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras reluctant to implement reforms he agreed as he slides in polls in an election year, Eurozone finance ministers have held back 970-million euro ($1.093 billion) in funding for Greece.

It wasn’t a surprise even though Greece missed a deadline for finishing undone measures that Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos promised would be hit, but with the government also unable to set up a framework on how primary residences would be safeguarded from foreclosures as banks are zeroing on them.

Tsipras, who swore “not one house in the hands of banks,” reneged on that promise along with virtually every other anti-austerity pledge to remain in power, although that has seen him slide in polls far behind the party he unseated, the major opposition New Democracy.

The installment was to come from profits generated from Greek bonds held by 18 other Eurozone countries, their central banks and the European Central Bank (ECB), one of the key debt relief measures agreed in 2017 that Tsipras had desperately sought.

With Greek banks, primarily its four biggest, buried under a mountain of bad loans making up some 40 percent of their portfolios – with many customers unable to pay because of repeated pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings – the country’s creditors are pushing for a new scheme for foreclosures as Tsipras wants to exempt primary homes.

Speaking after the Eurogroup meeting on March 11, EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici confirmed that the lack of a new framework was the primary obstacle to gaining a “green light” for the disbursement, the Greek business newspaper Naftemporiki said.

Moscovici, one of the Tsipras government’s few boosters in the EU and Eurozone, said that the topic will be brought up again at another Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers on April 4.