In case you forgot, Greece is on the brink of insolvency and without an agreement with creditors in the very near future, will default on its obligations to either the IMF, the ECB, its own citizens, or all of the above. The most pressing concern is a €750 million payment due to the IMF on Tuesday, a payment Greek FinMin Yanis Varoufakis says Athens will make, although it doesn’t seem as though anyone has a clear idea about exactly where the money will come from.
The important headlines from last week included an apparent split between the IMF and the rest of the Troika on what constitutes an acceptable list of reforms, a report that Greek banks were being cut off from interbank trading, and news that Varoufakis had distributed a Greek recovery “blueprint” containing estimates and assumptions that bore little resemblance to figures presented by PM Tsipras and his reshuffled negotiating team.
Now, with less than 48 hours to go until three quarters of a billion euros comes due to the IMF, Greece faces marathon negotiations on Monday with eurozone FinMins including the incorrigible, hot-tempered Wolfgang Schaeuble who made a splash on Saturday when he suggested that Athens may default “by accident” if the government continues to vacillate.
Via FAZ (Google translated):
Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has warned of the possibility of surprising Greek default. “Experiences elsewhere in the world have shown that a country can suddenly slip into insolvency,” Schaeuble told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS). He wanted a date in his first newspaper interview since detailed months but not speculate.
When asked whether the government had made preparations for such an eventuality, he said: “There are issues that can not answer a sensible politician. Otherwise there will be misunderstandings. Jean Claude Juncker once said, one must not take it then sometimes the truth always as accurate. I see these things more complicated. Therefore I say to prefer nothing at all. “
And while Schaeuble indicated that if Greece left the euro it would not be “because of” Germany, Bloomberg is reporting that Chancellor Merkel’s own party bloc now supports a Greek exit. Here’s more:
Members of Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc are openly challenging her stance of keeping Europe’s most-indebted country in the 19-nation currency region. Even some officials in the Finance Ministry are leaning toward the conclusion that the euro area would be better off without Greece, two people familiar with the matter said.
“The euro would be strengthened if Greece left,” Alexander Radwan, a Merkel-affiliated lawmaker who voted for granting Greece a temporary extension of its bailout in February, said in an interview. “The other countries could then move closer together and apply the rules more strictly.”
With European finance ministers due to resume talks on Greece on Monday, hardening sentiment in Germany risks sending mixed signals to investors as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government attempts to reach a deal with creditors.
Merkel has repeatedly voiced public support for keeping the country in the euro, partly for geopolitical reasons. Other officials in her government view Greece as a rule-breaker and a drag on the region’s economy, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing the deliberations.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a prominent German advocate of European unity for decades, has given plenty of signs of exasperation with Greece since Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis took office in January on an anti-austerity platform.
Clearly, any statement from the Eurogroup on Monday has the potential to move markets, but we would also note that the ECB last week reserved judgement on hiking haircuts on collateral pledged by Greek banks for ELA until after tomorrow’s meeting. So although there’s probably room to extend and pretend from a political perspective, any move by the ECB to tighten the screws on the Greek banking sector could cause the situation to deteriorate rapidly and indeed, if an ECB ELA decision that’s ostensibly designed to push negotiations forward inadvertently causes a bank run with negotiations still stalled, Schaeuble’s “accidental” insolvency may well become reality.