Greece lurches closer towards euro exit as EU finance ministers meet over bailout


The crisis in Greece looks set to deepen this week as the debt-riddled country lurches closer towards a humiliating exit from the single currency bloc.

Eurozone finance ministers are meeting in Brussels today to discuss the situation – but the talks are highly unlikely to end in a new funding package for the government in Athens.

The last time the Eurogroup of finance ministers met, in Riga last month, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis was branded ‘a time-waster, a gambler and an amateur’.Those discussions broke down after the Greek government failed to offer the reforms required to fix its economy in exchange for fresh financial support.

Today’s meeting comes just 24 hours before Athens is due to repay more than £500m to the International Monetary Fund – stretching its finances to breaking point.Greece desperately needs the next tranche of its bailout to survive – worth around £5.2bn – but is at loggerheads with Europe and the IMF over what is required to release the funds.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said there would be no agreement today.‘I don’t see that everything will be solved,’ he said, adding that Greece could run out of money at any point if it does not bow to the rest of Europe’s demands.

‘Experience elsewhere in the world has shown that a country can suddenly become unable to pay its bills,’ he said. ‘If it fails, it won’t be because of us.’ If Greece does not sign up to painful reforms in order to secure fresh funding, it may not be able to pay the £1.8bn it owes in salaries and pensions at the end of this month.

Fears are mounting that Greece will default on its debts – possibly forcing the country out of the euro.

Timo Soini, who could become Finland’s next finance minister after the eurosceptic party he leads entered a governing coalition, said it would make sense for Greece to leave the common currency.

Asked if he would like to see Greece thrown out of the eurozone, he said: ‘That would perhaps be the clearest option for everybody, also for the Greeks.’

Italian finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan warned that ‘time is running out’ Greece.

Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the Eurogroup, said Greece has not done enough to earn more aid.

‘We have made progress, but we are not very close to an agreement,’ he said. ‘We will need more time, but I don’t know how much.’