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Discussions delayed until Monday as Eurozone and Greece fail to even reach agreement on framework for negotiations

Despite six hours of talks yesterday, Greece and its Eurozone partners failed to even agree on the framework for negotiations over Greece’s bailout loans. Discussions have now been put off until Monday’s meeting of Eurozone finance ministers. Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem told the press, “It was my ambition to agree on the steps on the next couple days so that we could spend them well…Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do that.”

Reports suggest that a joint statement had been agreed, but that Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis made a last-minute call to Athens to get final approval and was denied. The statement was therefore scrapped. The disagreement is thought to have centred on the potential extension of the current bailout programme, which Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has categorically ruled out. The change came so late that some ministers, including Germany’s Wolfgang Schäuble, had already left assuming that a deal was done. However, the Greek government has denied ever giving its approval to the draft statement.

Varoufakis said the meeting was “constructive” and “fascinating”. EU leaders will meet in Brussels today, where UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will urge Greece to find an agreement to end economic uncertainty in Europe. Meanwhile, the Financial Times’ Brussels Blog estimates that Greece could need €38bn in funding if the new government’s plans were implemented. Greek daily Kathimerini reports that officials have raised their expectations of the immediate budget gap in Greece to up to €5bn due to a drop in revenue.

Separately, Pablo Iglesias – the leader of Spain’s anti-establishment party Podemos – warns in an article for the Guardian’s Comment is Free, “The wind of change that is blowing in Europe could become a storm that speeds up geopolitical changes, with unpredictable consequences.”

Open Europe’s blog post putting the chances of a Greek euro exit at around 40%, up from 25% in 2012, is cited by The Daily Mail and by business news site Quartz. Open Europe’s Twitter coverage of yesterday’s Eurogroup featured widely on the Guardian Live Blog.

Sources: Kathimerini, The Financial Times: Brussels Blog, Comment is Free: Iglesias, Guardian: Live Blog, The Daily Mail, Quartz, Open Europe Blog

  • Peace talks in Minsk yield ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists

    Following around 17 hours of talks in Minsk last night between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, a ceasefire was agreed between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The ceasefire is due to come into force on Sunday and will include the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines. The agreement also envisions a special constitutional status for the disputed regions. France 24 cites French President François Hollande describing the agreement as a “comprehensive political solution”. However, the exact details remain unclear – with both sides claiming that they control the key transport hub of Debaltseve, which has seen intensive fighting in recent days. Separately, the IMF mission yesterday agreed a $40bn bailout package – of which the IMF itself would provide $17.5bn – to save Ukraine from bankruptcy.

    Sources: Reuters , Associated Press, France 24

  • Swiss government unveils plan to limit EU migration

    The Swiss government yesterday unveiled its plan to introduce EU migrant quotas backed by Swiss voters in a referendum last year. The quotas will apply to foreign workers who remain in Switzerland for more than four months, while Swiss residents will be granted recruitment priority. The plan needs to be approved by the Swiss parliament. The EU has warned Switzerland that the introduction of migrant quotas would lead to all EU-Swiss bilateral agreements being revised – meaning that Switzerland’s access to the single market could be restricted.

    Sources: The Financial Times, Les Echos

  • Juncker withdraws paper on Eurozone integration for fear of addressing the “British question”

    Senior European diplomats have told The Daily Telegraph that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has withdrawn a paper on Eurozone integration for fear of addressing the “British question”. “If such a paper starts to speculate on [EU] treaty change, then you are in trouble”, a diplomat said.

    Source: The Daily Telegraph

  • EU leaders to call for stricter controls of external borders to prevent terrorism

    According to the draft conclusions of today’s European Council summit, seen by Reuters, EU leaders will call for stricter controls on travellers entering or leaving the Schengen free travel area as well as increased information-sharing. This is part of a revamped counter-terrorism strategy in the wake of the Charlie Hébdo attacks in Paris.

    Sources: Reuters, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • Farage rules out forming a coalition with any other party after May general election

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage writes in The Daily Telegraph that, after the UK general election in May, “We’d say no to propping up a government that refuses us an immediate EU referendum – no to any coalition deals with the establishment parties who have taken us so far into this mess.”

    Source: The Daily Telegraph

  • Sweden’s Riksbank becomes latest central bank to cut rates into negative territory

    The Swedish Central Bank, the Riksbank, this morning cut its main interest rate to -0.1% and announced it would begin a purchase programme of government bonds worth SEK 10bn. The Riksbank said in a statement that it is “prepared to do more at short notice.”

    Source: Riksbank Press Release

The post Discussions delayed until Monday as Eurozone and Greece fail to even reach agreement on framework for negotiations appeared first on Open Europe.

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