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Remarks by J. Dijsselbloem following the Eurogroup meeting of 22 May 2017

Met dank overgenomen van Eurogroep, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 23 mei 2017.
Plenary session - Week 17 2017 in Brussels - Joint debate - EIB annual reports. State of play of the second review of the economic adjustment programme for Greece. Statement by the President of the Eurogroup
Bron: Copyright: © European Union 2017 - Source : EP.

Good evening and welcome to this press conference. Today we welcomed Bruno Le Maire, the new Minister for the Economy of the French government. We all look forward to working together with him. We had to say goodbye to Michael Noonan, who has announced that he will step down from his post. He could still be with us for the June meeting but I didn't want to take the chances of missing his farewell, so we thanked him for all the work he has done for Ireland and for the eurozone.

I will only speak about Greece, because I think it is the only topic of interest to you tonight. We have made huge progress on the policy package on which so much work had been done in the last months and on which an agreement had been reached between Greece and the institutions. The Eurogroup, of course, welcomed that very much. We are also very positive on the work done in Greece to implement those agreed measures and reforms in prior actions. The Commissioner will say more about that, but a lot of work has already been done in Greece by the Greek government and they are committed to continue that work as soon as possible, so that we can work towards that next disbursement before the summer.

Having said that, on debt sustainability, we have always said that if there was an agreement on the second review - and I think we are close to formally closing the second review, with a positive outcome - if there is agreement on that, that would open up the debt discussion to see where we are in terms of debt sustainability. This afternoon and this evening we had a first in-depth discussion on the topic of debt sustainability, looking very carefully at needs, options, constraints. But at this point, we have not reached an overall agreement on that part of our discussion. In the coming weeks, we will continue our work on that. We will try to come to an definite conclusion in the next Eurogroup meeting which will be in 3 weeks time. We will use that time well to work hard with the institutions and all member states involved.

The Eurogroup today has made quite clear that it is ready and prepared to specify further what could be envisaged if needed, in terms of debt relief. Of course, there are two guiding principles for the Eurogroup: that it needs to be inside the package that we had already agreed on 16 May, and that the final decision on what is actually needed and will be put in place, in terms of debt relief, will be taken at the end of the programme.

The IMF today also made it clear that they welcomed very much the progress made. They are impressed by the reforms and the work done by the Greeks and they still stand ready to go to the board. But they will also wait for the final discussion that we hope to have in 3 weeks time, in the next Eurogroup, on the issue of debt.

So overall - positive developments from Greece, lots of work done tonight. I think we are very close to that agreement. But tonight, we were unable to close a possible gap between what could be done and what some of us had expected should or could be done. We need to close that by looking at the additional options or by adjusting our expectations. Both are possible, and perhaps both should be done. That I think will surely bring us to a more positive and definite conclusion at the next Eurogroup, in June.

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