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Eurogroup meeting halted early as Eurozone insists Greece must ask for an extension of its current bailout programme

In an unprecedented move, last night’s meeting of Eurozone finance ministers was abandoned early after Greece and its Eurozone partners failed to reach agreement on a draft statement. Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem presented the Greek delegation with a draft statement which was rejected as “unacceptable” and “absurd.” The Greeks then proceeded to leak the version to the press and brief them that no deal was possible under such terms, leading to the meeting being ended.

In the ensuing press conferences, the Eurogroup presented an almost united front, expressing willingness to negotiate with Greece but insisting that it must seek an extension of the current programme. Negotiations will not continue until such a request is made, according to Dijselbloem, though he stressed we “can use this week, but that’s about it.” Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt told VRT Radio only “France is leaving some openings but then ultimately agrees with the consensus of the 17 others… To give in to Greece now, specifically to the demands which the Greek government is constantly raising, would endanger the future of the monetary union.”

However, in his own press conference, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said that he had been presented with an earlier draft statement by European Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici which he had been willing to sign. The statement was based on negotiations with the Commission and spoke of “an intermediate step” towards a new arrangement with officials saying the agreement included a promise not to force any unwanted measures on Athens. Varoufakis remained optimistic though, saying he expected negotiations to continue and a deal on “phrasing” to be found within “48 hours”, with the two sides “meeting halfway.”

Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel is quoted on the front page of City AM saying, “[The dispute] is more than just wording. There is a substantial difference there and I think that it’s quite a closely held belief for Greece that it doesn’t want any kind of extension of the current programme.” Open Europe Director Mats Persson is quoted in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung saying that the Greek government is behaving as though a Grexit would be just as painful for the rest of the Eurozone as it would be for Greece, while the Guardian’s Eurozone crisis live blog features Open Europe’s rolling analysis of yesterday’s meeting.

Sources: Open Europe blog, Kathimerini, The Financial Times, City AM, VTR Radio, CNN: Van Overtveldt, Guardian Eurozone crisis live, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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