EU downplays new Greek credit plan

EUROZONE officials have played down plans submitted by cashstrapped Greece to its international creditors in a bid to secure fresh funds, a day after Athens’s outspoken finance minister irked European Union partners by raising the prospect of a referendum.

Speaking before finance ministers of the currency area met in Brussels yesterday, eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said steps outlined by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in a letter last week were serious but “far from complete”.

“This is a process that [will] take a long time,” the Dutchman said.

It would be difficult to complete Greece’s reform programme during the four-month extension of its European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout that runs until the end of June.

Varoufakis, who wants a negotiated restructuring of Greece’s debt to official lenders, said in an interview published on Sunday that the leftist-led government could call a referendum or early elections if European partners rejected its debt and growth plans. The finance ministry later clarified that the Marxist former academic had been replying to a hypothetical question and that any referendum would “obviously regard the content of reforms and fiscal policy”, not whether to stay in the euro.

A senior politician in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc said yesterday that Greece would be better off outside the 19-nation eurozone, suggesting that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble privately shared that view.

“By leaving the eurozone, as Schaeuble has suggested, the country could make itself competitive again from a currency perspective with a new drachma,” former transport minister Peter Ramsauer, of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), wrote in Bild.

Merkel and Schaeuble both want to keep Greece in the currency area.

But Ramsauer said a temporary “Grexit” would be a great opportunity for the country to boost its economy and administration, “making it fit to return to the euro area from a position of strength”.

– Reuters

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