Euro finance ministers to discuss Greece ahead of EU summit

AP News
Posted: Feb 06, 2015 7:09 AM
Euro finance ministers to discuss Greece ahead of EU summit

BRUSSELS (AP) — The finance ministers of the 19-country eurozone are to hold a special meeting next Wednesday to discuss Greece's debts, a day ahead of a summit of European Union leaders.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the so-called eurogroup, said Friday that the meeting will center on Greece, which is back in the spotlight after the anti-austerity Syriza swept to power less than two weeks ago in a general election.

Syriza topped the vote with its promise to bring an end to Greece's years-long austerity. In return for rescue cash from its partners in the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund, successive Greek governments have had to impose a raft of spending cuts and tax increases which have stifled the country's economy.

Though the Greek economy has emerged from a brutal six-recession, the country remains burdened by its debts, which stand at over 170 percent of Greece's annual GDP.

Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has just completed a whistle-stop tour of European capitals as he attempts to forge a new strategy over Greece's debt. Varoufakis has insisted that it's not Athens' intention to default on its debts and that it wants to carve out a new compromise deal that will be to the mutual benefit of the eurozone and Greece.

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Following a meeting with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, on Thursday, Varoufakis said the Greek government is looking for a bridging program between now and the end of May to give room for talks on "a new contract" with the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Union.

Next week's meeting takes place on the eve of the leaders' summit which will involve Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for the first time.

Unscheduled eurogroup meetings were commonplace at the height of Europe's debt crisis a few years ago and often centered on Greece.