herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

The most important currency has been lost and that's trust, says Merkel

GREEK CRISIS

GREECE could be ejected from the eurozone for five years unless it manages to pass a suite of savage cuts and radical reform measures through parliament in the coming days.

The most damaging split in the history of the eurozone emerged yesterday as up to nine member states seriously considered the prospect of accepting a so-called 'Grexit'.

European leaders have issued Greece with its final ultimatum: accept our demands or leave the currency for five years.

breakdown

During a day of tense negotiations, German chancellor Angela Merkel warned of a major breakdown of trust with Greece.

"The most important currency has been lost and that's trust. There can be no agreement at any cost," Ms Merkel told reporters.

A dramatic two-day summit in Brussels has seen tempers flare, relations plummet and reports that the Finnish government was on the verge of collapse over the proposed €75bn-plus bailout deal for Greece.

But late last night, it emerged that a German proposal for a five-year temporary exit appeared in a draft document considered by finance ministers.

"In case no agreement could be reached, Greece should be offered swift negotiations on a time-out from the euro area, with possible debt restructuring," the document stated.

Irish officials had no comment to make on the proposal as discussions in Brussels over a Greek bailout continued.

Six sweeping measures, including tax and pension reforms, will have to be enacted by Wednesday night and the entire package endorsed by parliament before talks can start.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said on arrival in Brussels he wanted "another honest compromise" to keep Europe united.

"We can reach an agreement tonight if all parties want it," he said.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is the biggest contributor to eurozone bailouts, said the conditions were not yet right to start negotiations, sounding cautious in deference to mounting opposition at home to more aid for Greece.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the lack of trust between Greece and its eurozone partners was a significant factor.

"I understand that at a very frank and forthright series of exchanges, that the Greeks have actually strengthened their commitment to change and to building trust, which seems to be a fundamental issue with a lot of people," Mr Kenny told reporters.

"I think it's important to keep in mind here the bigger European picture, and that the statements of intent made by leaders of the eurozone at the last meeting need to be backed now by the Greeks in terms of demonstrating their conviction to remain a member of the eurozone," he added.

frustration

Mr Kenny remarked that this was his "umpteenth visit" to Brussels in a clear sign of frustration at the Greeks to date.

The Fine Gael leader also said he expects the Greeks to begin implementing legislative changes in parliament as early as today.

"But from Ireland's point of view, we are quite willing to work to bring this to a conclusion, where a solution can be reached, where negotiations can start on the detail of a third programme that will keep them in the eurozone," Mr Kenny said.

"I'd like to see them demonstrating, starting tomorrow in their parliament, that they are serious about implementing the changes - legislative and structural - that need to be put in place, and there are many of them," he added.

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