Germany wants euro-area finance chiefs to avoid splitting consideration of a 130 billion-euro ($171 billion) Greek rescue and a bond swap to cut the nation’s debt load at a meeting next week, coalition lawmakers were told by German government officials in a briefing.
As long as Greece meets conditions for the aid, the finance chiefs will probably approve the package along with the debt exchange, three German officials involved in the telephone briefing yesterday said. A Finance Ministry spokesman declined to comment.
Wrangling among euro-area finance ministers on a Feb. 15 conference call over how to reduce Greece’s debt load and tighten control of the aid raised the prospect of a two-step process, according to two people familiar with the talks. In that scenario, the ministers’ Feb. 20 gathering in Brussels would be limited to kicking off the bond exchange and deferring decision on the rest of the bailout funds.
As recriminations fly between Greece and its northern European creditors, the clock is ticking toward a March 20 bond redemption when Greece must pay 14.5 billion euros or trigger the first sovereign default in the euro’s 13-year history.
“We expect the Greeks to rise to their responsibilities,” German Deputy Finance Minister Steffen Kampeter told a group of lawyers in Hamburg yesterday. “This coming Monday, we will see whether Greece delivers or whether we will be forced to decide on another course of action, one that is not desired.”
Investors sent the euro and global stocks higher as they anticipated the culmination of the seven-month effort to complete a second bailout for Greece. The currency rose for the first time in five days, gaining 0.7 percent to $1.3153 at 11 p.m. in Athens.
While Greek lawmakers this month passed austerity measures that were required for the aid, the euro ministers wrestled with the latest setback, hearing on their call that Greece would miss debt-reduction goals. Without further measures to close the funding gap, Greece’s debt would fall to 129 percent of gross domestic product in 2020, missing a target of 120 percent, said three people familiar with the talks who declined to be named because they are still in progress. Last year, the level was about 160 percent.
European authorities are discussing charging it lower rates, the three officials said. Greece obtained its first, 110 billion-euro loan package in May 2010 at rates averaging 5 percent. Euro governments have already cut that figure once, to about 4 percent in March 2011.