Greece had not received final approval from eurozone finance ministers for its new 130-billion-euro bailout by late on Monday night, but the mood at the Eurogroup meeting in Brussels was much more positive than in previous weeks following the near-completion of the restructuring involving Greek bondholders.
The head of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, had encouraging words for Greece, marking a distinct change to the recent atmosphere at these gatherings of finance ministers, where there had been skepticism about the country’s future. Speaking to Skai TV’s “New Files” program, Juncker insisted there was no question of Greece leaving the eurozone.
“I never doubted that Greece would remain in the euro and I never will,” said Juncker. “Greece is an old European democracy but it is facing huge problems. It is taking the measures we asked for and I cannot see any reason that we should continue this silly discussion. We are feeding the markets with our speculation. I will never take part in this.”
Juncker said that once approved, Greece’s second bailout should also be its last if Athens sticks to the reform and fiscal targets it has agreed with the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund. However, in keeping with recent comments by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Juncker did not rule out the possibility a third package would be needed.
“It depends on the way the second program is implemented,” he said. “If Greece continues to take effective measures, reduces its fiscal deficit, in other words if it implements the program, I don’t see the need for a third support package of similar size.”
Speaking to reporters before the Eurogroup, Juncker said there was “no doubt” that the second bailout for Greece would be approved but that this would probably happen on Wednesday.
The implementation of the reform program will be at the center of discussions between the head of the EU Task Force, Horst Reichenbach, and ministers this week. Reichenbach arrived in Athens on Monday and is due to meet several members of the Cabinet before delivering the Task Force’s quarterly report.
The size of the Task Force in Greece is to be increased and members are due to be stationed permanently at ministries to oversee the reforms Athens has pledged to implement.