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Highlights - Euro zone finance ministers' meeting

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The following are comments by euro zone finance ministers and other officials as they gathered for a meeting in Brussels on Monday with the Greek crisis at the top of the agenda.

FRENCH ECONOMY MINISTER CHRISTINE LAGARDE:

“We also discussed technical modalities of the plan (for Greece) which would be put into effect if the need was to be felt, that is to say if markets do not understand the reality and the depth of the austerity plans and stabilisation programme committed by Greece.”

“Firstly, this is not a mechanism that is necessary today. We indicated that the examination of the technical modalities is a work of anticipation but there is no reason to anticipate implementation. So I won’t go into the technical details.”

“The guarantee mechanism was not the safest ... We ruled out the guarantee mechanism.”

“I am not going to give you the technical details of the programme but suffice to say that we have clarified all the technical details, that the programme would be both in conformity with the European treaty and the national laws of the countries that would be part of the programme and that it could be acted upon very quickly by the European Council.”

AUSTRIAN FINANCE MINISTER JOSEF PROELL

On possible aid for Greece:

“Today there was no discussion at all of sums.”

“There could be aid at any time if it is necessary but there has been no decision.”

On financial aid: “It was also not asked for by our Greek colleagues.”

“There were technical preparations ... that make it possible to organise aid quickly if it should be necessary.”

EU MONETARY AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER OLLI REHN

“We have to analyse whether the countries with current account surpluses should enhance such structural reforms that enhance domestic demand.”

EUROGROUP CHAIRMAN JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER

“The final decision (on measures for Greece) is up to the European Council. I have not said it would be the next European Council.”

“The message we are sending to the markets is that we are convinced the measures taken by Greece are credible. We did discuss ... the technical modalities..”

“We think the question (of aid for Greece) will not arise. I don’t think loan guarantees will be decided. I don’t think that loan guarantees will be the mechanism.”

EU MONETARY AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER OLLI REHN

“Of course, it is clear that there is a more urgent need of corrective action in the countries that suffer from big current account deficits. Greece is a very clear-cut example.”

“I am glad that the Eurogroup endorses the (European) Commission’s assessment of the Greek stability programme. I was in Athens two weeks ago. Since then the Greek government have taken bold additional measures, which mean that Greece is now on track to reach 4 percent deficit reduction. We clarified the technical modalities enabling a decision on coordinated action and which could be enacted swiftly. It is essential that this will be done fully consistently with the treaty framework.”

EUROGROUP CHAIRMAN JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER

“In case of need, we still think it won’t be necessary, an agreement can be reached in the euro area. Bilateral aid could be granted in this way. This instrument was not adopted today. That would be for the European Council. There are still some technical points.”

“We agreed that the final decision (on steps for Greece) will be taken by the European Council.”

“We insisted that in every other meeting we should examine the situation of individual members of the euro area. We discussed the 2020 agenda.”

“The member states of the euro area will take coordinated action if such action turns out to be necessary. We clarified the technical arrangements ... to take coordinated action.”

“Apart from the economic situation in Greece, we discussed problems arising from competitiveness differentials in the euro area.”

“We discussed the economic situation in the euro area as usual. Growth remains fragile. There are uncertainties and risks that remain, but we do not think we should change the exit policy and our fiscal strategy. We devoted most of our meeting to the situation in Greece. The Greek authorities did not ask for financial aid.

“We think the consolidation measures are an important contribution to the improvement of the fiscal situation in Greece. The (European) Commission fully supports the steps taken by the Greek government.”

AUSTRIAN FINANCE MINISTER JOSEF PROELL

“We will grapple with Greece intensively. First, over the deficit-reduction path Greece has taken using its own national measures. Second, over technically how one could give support in the future, based on the framework. Whether or not a decision is made today remains entirely open.”

“It is not at all apparent -- the discussion is entirely open. There are different opinions. It is important now to listen to the (European) Commission’s opinion on the deficit situation, to listen to the ECB, and then discuss intensively. It is the really most open meeting of the Eurogroup I have seen since I have been attending. The questions are more open than ever before.”

“The financial needs of Greece are not yet on the table. Talk of their size will surface repeatedly. There are more open questions than can be answered at the moment.”

“If financial aid is required, the question of in what framework it could come -- technically and in terms of size -- has not yet been answered.”

“Greece has given a clear signal to markets that it has taken a path and will stay on it.”

“At the moment I still cannot speak of a basis for decision-making.”

GERMAN DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER JOERG ASMUSSEN

On participation by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble at Monday’s Eurogroup meeting:

“It is a first appointment since being in hospital but you cannot deduce by his presence that there will be financial commitment to any country.”

DUTCH FINANCE MINISTER JAN KEES DE JAGER

On possible steps for Greece:

“All countries will participate. We will do it according to the guidelines I have set out also in the Dutch parliament. This means no bailout, so no problems with the European Treaty Article 125 and it means also that we will require an effective spread or premium on top of the cost of funding so that there will also be the incentive for Greece to refinance through the market instead of bilateral loans.”

“There will be no bailout, because Greece has to solve its own problems concerning government debt. After that, it is possible that we will take measures in a coordinated way as European and euro zone countries, that will be no bailout.”

“If we talk about measures, for example about loans, they will follow the same kind of methodology as the IMF. This is not a bailout.”

“There is already a basic kind of understanding (about the measures).”

EUROGROUP CHAIRMAN JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER

“We will discuss several options this evening... to find a solution if one is needed. I don’t think we need one, but the final decision is up to the European Council.”

EU ECONOMIC AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER OLLI REHN

“I would expect that Europe would endorse the assessment of the (European) Commission on Greece’s bold set of measures which would mean that Greece is on track to meet the 4 percent target of deficit reduction this year.

“We will also discuss how to safeguard financial stability in the euro area as a whole.”

“The Commission is ready to table a proposal for a European framework for coordinated and conditional assistance.”

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