Greece approaches moment of truth on EU debt as creditors feud

AFP Photo / Aris Messinis
Greece is still seeking ways to cut its debt which is projected to reach 190% of GDP next year. The scope for further write downs is seen as the biggest issue at the latest Eurogroup summit.

After weeks of regular meetings and conference calls aimed at tackling Greek debt issues, the ‘troika’ of creditors-the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank – gather in Brussels on Monday to find a solution for the worst hit European economy.

€44bn of the planned bailout money is what Athens wants to see from the international creditors. But the international creditors remain unwilling to give Greece more unless the country agrees on a clear plan to reduce its debt.

“We expect a deal that will include a mix of options, such as lower interest rates on current loans, an interest moratorium and a longer repayment schedule,” said James Ashley at RBC Capital Markets.

Opinions on what could cut Greece’s debt are divided, with the focus now being on whether creditors should write down Greece’s debt any more.

While the IMF insists Greece would need its creditors to forgive a large part of their loans in what EU jargon calls Official Sector Involvement (OSI), another international creditor – European Central Bank –strongly objects to the idea.

"It will be touch-and-go if we get a deal on Greece on Monday," the German Bild paper quoted the ECB executive board member Joerg Asmussen.

"Euro zone countries have made concessions worth a lot of money already, so it is difficult to see how this can move even further."

Germany – the economic backbone for troubled Europe – says lower interest rates should become a major anti – debt weapon.

Last week’s meeting showed that Germany was reluctant to allow any haircuts on its bond holdings, with the IMF unwilling to extend the 2020 timetable for cutting Greece’s debt to GDP ratio to 120%.

“The risk is that the IMF will not settle for such a solution and will walk away from the programme, but we do not think that this is likely at this point,” James Ashley added.

The first ‘troika’bailout package for debt-ridden Greece totaled €110bn and was granted in May 2011 when the international creditors created a rescue programme for the country.

The second €130bn bailout deal was ratified in February 2012, when private holders of governmental bonds agreed to take a 53.5% haircut on their holdings.