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Spotlight: Eurogroup meeting faces rising discord over Greek debt negotiations
BY 2017-02-20 09:41:30

BRUSSELS, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- Discord over the Greek debt negotiations are set to overshadow a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels on Monday.

The Eurogroup is due to meet on Monday, during which it will discuss a range of issues, including the ongoing second review of Greece's economic adjustment program.

Finance ministers are expected to focus on the second review of the economic adjustment program for Greece and the approval of further financial support consisting of 86 billion euros (91 billion U.S. dollars).

The meeting comes with Greece due to make a 7.2 billion euros repayment in July, and key national elections just around the corner in the Netherlands, France and Germany.

The Greek review has been carried out by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Stability Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund.

Ahead of the ministerial, European lawmakers have been taking turns to offer advice to Eurogroup members.

The Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament has called for negotiations with Greece, which has an estimated 44 percent youth unemployment, to be "swiftly concluded".

A spokesman said, "Financial support for Greece must not be made conditional on further cuts to pensions, or other austerity measures."

Elsewhere, GUE/NGL's Greek MEPs have said it is time for the "uncertainty" over Greece's debt to end.

Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice-President of the European Parliament, said, "On 20 February, we need some white smoke coming out of the meeting so that we're not wasting any more time. We need to bring an end to this wretched ping-pong match. It's time for creditors to respect their commitments."

Another Greek MEP, Nikolaos Chountis, lamented the state of the play and said Greece has suffered enough as it is.

"They will say 'NO' to the Euro and the monetary union that aims to put in place permanent austerity, privatisations and neoliberal structural reforms."

"They will fight for their dignity and for democracy," Chountis added.

Meanwhile, German ECR MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel, has called for a "double decision" -- a massive debt relief for Greece and the withdrawal of the country from the Euro.

The economics professor and former president of the Federation of German Industry (BDI) underlined the still prevailing lack of competitiveness of Greece in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

A high unemployment rate and the lack of economic prospects are good reasons for Greece to leave the Eurozone as quickly as possible in order to become more competitive again.

Before that, however, it is necessary to grant Greece a substantial debt relief in exchange. A bankruptcy could be the first step towards improvement, according to Henkel.

"The Euro is too strong for Greece and has led to a declining economic performance and destruction of jobs," says Henkel.

A debt relief and the withdrawal of Greece from the euro, he argues, would also be make sense for the other euro countries.

"Firstly, creditors will not pay for it -- the money is already gone. Secondly, a new, depreciated currency would help Greece finally regain competitiveness, get economically on its feet again and tackle the unbearable problem of youth unemployment," Henkel said.

"Let's not delude ourselves, the money we gave Greece we will not see again. Let us free Greece from the burden of being part of the euro, because it has only harmed the country," Henkel concluded.

This discussion is a follow-up to a debate held in July 2016, when the Eurogroup mandated the Eurogroup Working Group to conduct an analysis of conditions that are relevant for promoting investment in the euro area.

While the state of the country's fiscal and reform plans will take centre stage on Monday, the Eurogroup will also look into the environment for doing business in the euro area, which includes the administrative and regulatory burden, quality of public services and tax administration.

The European Commission will present data on the current economic situation in the euro area as well as the outlook for 2017-2018, based on its winter forecast, which was published on Feb. 13.

(Editor:Li Zhaoqi) (From:xinhua)
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