BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU finance ministers met on Tuesday seeking to break an impasse over a new regime to supervise banks, but with much of the plan contested and time running short to agree.
Their talks followed a meeting of euro zone finance ministers where disagreement between Greece’s international lenders over how long to give Athens to get its debts down to a sustainable level reignited fears that the euro zone debt crisis could flare anew.
Following are comments from ministers and officials:
”We talked about enhanced cooperation on the financial transaction tax and made clear that - there were some misunderstandings - that first of all the basic formal agreement for an enhanced cooperation has to be expressed and only after that the European Commission will make its proposal in detail.
“I expect we will gather momentum. On top of that the Dutch finance minister said that the new Dutch government is very interested in participating in the enhanced cooperation. We will be 12 (countries) if the Dutch join.”
”Three tranches have accrued by year end. So it’s quite logical that we don’t decide just about June and September but about the end of the year as well.
”But it’s all the more important that we agree on a control mechanism and that’s one of the points that we can bring towards a joint solution in the coming days.
“We’ve made a good bit of progress and I‘m confident we will manage to take a decision on Tuesday that we’ll be able to present the national parliaments. I will now inform the Bundestag factions in writing and orally about the state of the negotiations, but of course while we don’t have an agreement on the substance we can’t present it to the Bundestag.”
”This topic has a certain sensitivity in Greece and that’s why it’s important that it’s dealt with publicly in a certain way.
”A member state of the European Union that is in such a difficult situation with internal political discrepancies as a consequence has a right for us to find solutions that are sustainable and on the other hand it also has a right that given all the difficult decisions to be made, we try not to make things even more difficult than they are already.
“So please understand that for the remaining days we’ll talk to each other to find a joint solution and to present them in a way that won’t hurt anyone. But all participants, including financial markets participants... must know that what we agree as a programme also works. And Greece knows... it has a lack of trust as a problem. These considerations serve to strengthen trust.”
“The difference among those holding bonds aren’t too big but it’s a sensitive topic for Greece and we have to see that we get an acceptable solution.”
“Greece has delivered in a very difficult political environment.”
”Many people might ask why, if we have taken so many fiscal measures, more than 25 percent of GDP, why the deficit hasn’t fallen accordingly.
“The answer is mainly recession. Most of the (EU/IMF) troika institutions talk about the failure of Greece to do structural reforms. But let’s be honest. Most of the failure comes from anti-cyclical measures, they created the recession.”
“Many people talk about debt sustainability. The single most important parameter for debt sustainability is economic growth, even half a percentage of GDP growth can make a huge difference. If Greece’s GDP growth is only 0.5 percent a year higher than the models used by the troika, then in 2020 the difference in the debt to GDP ratio can be as high as 15 percentage points.”
Following are earlier comments, from before Tuesday’s talks:
”We all noticed and welcomed that Greece, the Greek government, the Greek parliament, has taken far-reaching decisions in the last few days that go in the right direction and for which we have great respect, because everyone knows it’s difficult to take such far-reaching steps in such a difficult situation. However, they are necessary.
”We believe we’re on a good path to get a political agreement to solve the questions that remain open this coming Tuesday. After that we will have to go into our parliamentary approval or consultation processes.
”It’s important that we need a reliable mechanism, so that what is agreed is also actually implemented. It’s not mistrust in the Greek government but it’s simply the lesson learned from past years.
”We can’t afford for agreements reached after difficult negotiations not to be implemented again. Improvement of the implementation mechanism is of central significance for Greece.
”Then a solution has to be found to reach debt sustainability.
”We know that the worsening economy in Europe... leads to Greece reaching debt sustainability in 2020... as being possibly a little too ambitious.
“We will need to find solutions on some difficult points in the coming days, but given the progress made we are confident we will manage that together.”
”I am very happy that in retrospect we are getting so much support for the PSI (private sector writedowns on Greek debt) by the IMF. It’s a good sign that proposals developed by France and Germany together are usually so good that they can be accepted by others. For private creditors there is no opportunity of a second haircut anymore.
”What can be done is a debt buy, and that’s being talked about. There’s a debate about a haircut for official creditors.
”On that I will say, and most countries have said so in the past few weeks, that that’s legally not possible. And to reiterate the position of the ECB is not the job of the German finance minister, but if you ask the president of the ECB you get a clear answer.
“Without speculating, I believe we should in future concentrate on other solutions.”
”There are no considerations to top up the programme. We must find ways to close the gaps without using this path. That’s not trivial, but it is also not beyond imagination. Then we presume the programme will function, so in the end it will be all about guarantees, not transfer for Greece.
”But it may be that we take some measures to reduce interest rates that will have an immediate effect on the budget. That’s true, but that’s about forgoing of profits or marginal changes.
“Apart from that, we expect that the problems will be solved within the financial framework of the second programme by allowing more time with additional measures.”
”We work together closely, but I‘m of the opinion that it doesn’t help us if we give grades on each other’s jobs. We talk together. We also agreed from the very start that we want to try to learn from each other.
“It’s not like we do everything right in Germany. It’s not like France does everything right, but I don’t even want to say that. But it’s not our attitude for one to feel superior to the other. We have a close partnership and we know we have to do it together.”
”We have agreed that we will ask economists to research what we could... learn together (from the lessons of history) broadly to master the challenges of the 21st century better. We trust in the policies of the French government. We trust in the government that the French have voted for.
“If we were in the same country, we probably wouldn’t vote for the same party. That’s not really a surprise, but we trust the majorities that are elected in each country.”
“No, not a second must be wasted answering that.”
”There are some prior actions still to put in place, but I am sure this will be done. Greek authorities have agreed to implement a strengthened governance system with correction mechanisms to ensure that the programme will be implemented, that budget targets are achieved.
”For France and Germany it is extremely important that this is done. There has to be a strict framework for implementing the programme.
“I have discussed this with (German Finance Minister) Wolfgang Schaeuble and we are in full agreement on the objectives - maintaining the unity of the euro zone and the interest of every country in the euro zone - and on full agreement on the calendar and the method for doing so.”
“Our objective is to reach an agreement in principle on November 20 so that we can submit it for validation according to the applicable procedures and then proceed to the disbursement of funds by the end of this month.”
LUXEMBOURG‘S FINANCE MINISTER LUC FRIEDEN
”I would prefer if we do good (preparatory) work, even if this takes longer rather than that everything is quick, quick, quick and quality suffers.
“We shouldn’t be fixed to dates. I don’t think we will answer all these questions in a couple of hours. If it takes three months longer, it’s no problem.”
“We cannot see a compromise with only the current modalities on the table.”
“The ECB could be the supervisor but then we need to consider a treaty change. Either you must change the treaty so it’s clear that every member is treated equitably or you need to move it outside of the ECB.”
“No, the government has a commitment to its fiscal targets and the commitment is important to eliminate any doubts about Spain. It is inevitable but it must be done in a reasonable way.”
“Yesterday we talked about our bank recapitalization plan, our bad bank that starts in December and everything is going to plan.”
“Absolutely not. The only thing was a quick analysis of the banking programme.”
“We have the troika team in Cyprus right now they have been there for a couple of days now. We are making very good progress and I am looking forward to a very good result towards the end of this week.”
“We are hopeful the negotiations will progress to the stage where we can have a conclusion during the Cyprus presidency (of the European Union).”
Reporting by Robin Emmott, Daniel Flynn, Michele Kambas, Annika Breidthardt, Charlie Dunmore, Jan Strupczewski and John O'Donnell; compiled by Rex Merrifield