BRUSSELS – European Union officials failed today to reach a deal on giving Greece more aid, prolonging uncertainty over the future of the debt-hobbled country and the 17-member eurozone.
Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the meeting of finance ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro, said the talks, which lasted nearly 12 hours, will reconvene on Monday. It was the second consecutive meeting at which the ministers failed to agree on a deal, highlighting the depth of their divisions over how to handle Greece’s huge debt problem without reaching more deeply into the pockets of their own taxpayers.
Juncker, however, said he was optimistic that a deal could be reached.
“We are very close to a result. We see no major stumbling block,” he said. There are technical issues and calculations to be made in coming days, he said.
But Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, which gives Greece bailout loans alongside the eurozone, sounded a more cautious note, saying only “we have narrowed the positions.”
Investors reacted by selling the euro, which dropped from above $1.2810 to $1.2755 within a half hour. Stock markets in Asia surrendered early gains.
There has been disagreement among the ministers and the IMF on how to make Athens’ debt manageable. The eurozone ministers are in favor of giving Greece an extra two years, to 2022, to bring its debt down to 120 percent of gross domestic product from the 176 percent forecast for this year. The IMF has resisted such an extension.
Agreement on this issue is needed for the group of creditors to pay Greece the next batch of its rescue loans, expected to amount to $57 billion.
Greece has been relying since 2010 on international bailout loans, under terms supervised by the so-called troika – the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.