Scicluna welcomes Greece’s progress, commitment towards policy reforms

Finance minister insists Malta will retain stance that Greece can achieve debt sustainability without haircuts on the nominal debt

Finance minister Edward Scicluna at Monday's Eurogroup meeting
Finance minister Edward Scicluna at Monday's Eurogroup meeting

Finance minister Edward Scicluna welcomed Greece’s commitment towards implementing austerity reforms, in his first comments following a Eurogroup meeting of finance ministers.

“It is important to move ahead with the review and ensure that the agreed policy package is credible and economically adequate,” Scicluna said, following an extraordinary Eurogroup meeting in Brussels.

Greek MPs passed controversial new pension and tax reforms on Monday.

Following today’s meeting, Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem said he hopes a deal with Greece on reforms and debt relief can be agreed on 24 May. The talks were focusing on debt relief measures aimed at avoiding the prospect of Greece defaulting on its debt in July – when Athens is due to make its next major repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank.

The IMF believes Greece needs debt relief and says it will not sign off on a review of Greek reforms unless such relief is granted.

“We tried to set political direction in order to achieve progress in the current weeks as there were no firm conclusion agreed today,” Scicluna remarked. “It is unfortunate but debt relief remains the fly in the ointment between the European Institutions and the IMF, although each side is bending over backward to reach an agreement, an underlying rift remains.”

He added that Malta will retain its position that debt sustainability can be achieved by other measures than haircuts on the nominal debt.

The debate in Greece's parliament on the reforms lasted for two days and protesters clashed with police in Athens in the lead up to the vote early on Monday.

Three days of a general strike paralysed public transport and slowed the public sector.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said it was time to end the "vicious cycle" of cuts and to start talks with the eurozone on debt relief.

"We have an important opportunity before us for the country to break this vicious cycle, and enter a virtuous cycle," he told MPs.

Tsipras was elected as prime minister on an anti-austerity ticket but eventually signed up to Greece's third international bailout since 2010.