Eurogroup President Spokesperson
Good evening everyone. Let me give you a debrief of our agenda. It was a regular Eurogroup meeting, which followed a string of extra Eurogroup meetings the last couple of weeks.
We started our meeting by discussing Greece again, but quite briefly and more in organisational terms than on substance today. We followed up on the conclusions of the summit last night. Briefly we discussed possibilities of bridge financing and looked at the timetable, of the steps to take in the coming days and weeks on Greece. Also we had a first round of debate on the 5 presidents' report. The debate will continue tomorrow in the Ecofin and we took stock of an assessment which the Commission is providing us with on the fiscal compact, in particular on the implementation of the fiscal compact in national procedures.
Let me say a little more on Greece. I am sure you have lots of questions about that also. As you know, following the Greek request for a new ESM programme, we had two sessions of the Eurogroup over the weekend with the objective to decide whether to give the official green light, mandate to the institutions to start formally the negotiations on a new ESM programme. we had very intense discussions. At the heart of these discussions was the issue of trust. Other people have spoken about this. President Juncker has spoken about this, which of course over the course of the last months, in particular surrounding the referendum, a lot of that trust was lost and it had to be rebuilt and it still has to be rebuilt. I think, for me personally, the aim has always been to maintain Greece inside the Eurozone. But it has to be done in a credible way. Credible, for Greece: it had to set out a path that would restore financial independence for Greece in the medium term, restore economic development in Greece, maintain fiscal stability in Greece. It had to be credible for Greece for the future. But it had to be credible also for the Eurozone. Any outcome for me is, one of the keystones is that it is credible for the Eurozone. We are a monetary union which is rule-based and it requires a strong commitment of its members to the rules and to the union. And this was also tested. And that was also the reason why we took so much time in the Eurogroup and in the Summit to talk about what is needed to put Greece back on a sustainable economic and fiscal path, but also how to put Greece back in the middle of that rule-based monetary union. And I hope that we will be successful in doing that.
Let me say a few words on the procedure, moving ahead. Already at the press conference last night I said a few words about this. In the coming days - Wednesday at the latest - the Greek government will put to parliament and hopefully the parliament will approve the package as a whole; including last night's or rather this morning's agreement, and also four specific elements of legislation which were in the agreement. If that is successful - the institutions will inform us whether that has been successful -we will have a Eurogroup conference call either on Wednesday night, but probably on Thursday morning to assess that, and that will be the signal for the other Ministers to go to their national parliaments. This is not valid for all ministers, but I believe six or seven have to go to national parliaments. Myself, I have to go. And that can take place on Thursday and Friday. And hopefully at the end of the week we will have another conference call, formally to give the mandate to the institutions. And they will enter into a process to decide an MOU, which is the basis, and the financing arrangements which are the basis, for a new ESM programme. Of course, this is a completely different situation to what we were talking about before; the old talks were broken off and the referendum was called. Then we were talking about a short-term extension of the second programme. Now we are talking about designing a completely new programme for three years. It will involve a lot more on substance, commitments and financing needs, and it will take time to negotiate that; we have asked the institutions to do that as quickly as possible, but it will probably be closer to 4 weeks than 2 weeks. That is my understanding and some call me an optimist. So the path for this week is clear: if all goes well we will have two conference calls to further set off the process. There is already for next week outlined two issues of further legislation for the Greek parliament to consider. Two other issues: prior actions to take forward. And that way we hope to make a lot of progress on measures and reforms that are necessary, while we are finalising the MOU.
Today we also looked at the issue of bridge financing, because of course there are urgent needs. And this process of finalising the agreement will take time. This is very complex. We looked at a number of possibilities. There are technical, legal, financial and political issues to consider. So we have tasked an ad hoc working group, technical experts to look into that. They have already started today and they will continue their work tonight. Tomorrow, the Euro Working Group will look at it. That is the deputy-ministers, as you know, and then we will probably have a conference call of ministers on specifically this issue to see what solutions we can find. It is very complex. We haven't yet found the golden key to solve that issue.
Let me say a few words, just briefly, on the Five Presidents' Report. The discussion we had there - I think the recent events and debates about the monetary union, its integrity, its strength - proved once again the importance of this Five Presidents' Report. It has a number of concrete ambitions; it has first of all an ambition to strengthen the governance of the monetary union, and that ambition was very strongly supported today in our discussion. Everyone around the table who took the floor said "look, we feel more than ever the need to strengthen, to take further steps". It was recognised that, in the course of the last five years of the crisis, already a lot of work has been done, new mechanisms put in place, new instruments, banking systems etc., and yet we are determined to push that process on. Even now as we are moving out of the crisis, we should continue this strengthening of governance. Strong support also to complete the banking union. You will find in the report a number of very concrete issues we have to return to, to complete the banking union. Of course, the first one - implementation - is the one we agreed before, but on top of that we need to turn to a number of issues.
Tomorrow we will discuss the report again with all the colleagues in the Ecofin and the Commission. But Pierre will say more about that, about the work planning for the specific issues in this Five Presidents' Report, developing proposals so that the Commission can put those proposals to the Council and we can take concrete steps.
Finally, we wanted to talk about the implementation of the Fiscal Compact, but the review hasn't been completed yet, so the Commission just informed us on the state of play, and directly after the summer we will come back to that. This is one of the key points that was actually mentioned by a number of colleagues today, when we talked about the Five Presidents' Report: implementation, the need to do that, to do it quickly, to be serious about it. This could actually be an interesting test case of how serious we are about implementation. But we will check on that in September.