Greek Crisis

Euro zone finance ministers meet to see if new Greek proposals can clinch third bailout

Mark Hilliard Sat, Jul 11
 
LIVE: Greek Crisis

Sort by:

  • Latest first
  • Oldest first
  • This event has now ended
  • 12:30
    Good afternoon, Mark Hilliard with you today as the countdown begins to see whether or not European finance chiefs can rubberstamp the latest proposals from Greece. And help the country narrowly avoid the notorious “Grexit”.

    At 1pm, the group will converge to discuss the recommendations as set out by the various institutions having reviewed the Greek proposals, approved in Athens overnight.

    On foot of this, they may take a conditional decision to recommend opening negotiations on a loan agreement. Conversely, they may decide there is still no basis for opening negotiations. It’s all to play for today.

    In the background, however, Berlin remains cautious. Sources have indicated the weekend’s talks in Brussels are just the first of several steps before Germany will give its blessing.




  • 12:35
    At times the back-and-forth nature of this affair has been overwhelming. Things now look, cautiously, optimistic though.

    Euro zone sources said bailout talks are now very likely after the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF told euro zone governments that, following a review of Mr Tsipras’s proposals, they were of sufficient basis to start negotiating conditional loans from the currency union’s ESM bailout fund.

  • 12:40
    Reuters reports: A bailout package for Greece needs to include a reduction in the country's debt burden, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told German daily Die Welt in an interview published today.

    The German government has resisted a restructuring of Greece’s debts, with Chancellor Angela Merkel opposing a “classic haircut” and the finance ministry saying Berlin would not accept any form of debt reduction that would lower its real value.

    But Macron insisted the burden must be eased, telling Die Welt: “It is necessary to reduce the debt burden so that the Greek economy does not go under.”

  • 12:45
    <p>Arriving in Brussels, in what is shaping up to be a sort of fiscal red carpet event, IMF head Christine Lagarde tells Reuters: “I think we are here to make a lot more progress.”</p>

    Arriving in Brussels, in what is shaping up to be a sort of fiscal red carpet event, IMF head Christine Lagarde tells Reuters: “I think we are here to make a lot more progress.”

  • 12:46
  • 12:46
  • 12:50
  • 13:02
  • 13:03
  • 13:04
  • 13:06
    Our man in Athens Damian Mac Con Uladh has tweeted a number of front pages from Greece this morning, giving some nice insight into how the country feels on this most fateful of days
  • 13:07
  • 13:16

    As we are drip fed some early responses to the thrust of Greek proposals, the BBC reports that both the Netherlands and Austria have backed Germany's tough approach.

  • 13:17
  • 13:22
  • 13:22
  • 13:23
  • 13:23
  • 13:27

    So what are we hearing in these early hours of pre-talks talk? Bloomberg tells us:

    “The Eurogroup still needs to discuss proposals and several questions are still unresolved,” Estonian Finance Minister Sven Sester told reporters as he arrived for the gathering. “A strong long-term plan is needed to get the economy back on its feet.”

  • 13:28
    Germany maintains that sombre note. Finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble regards the plan as inadequate and opposes more talks, Bild reports.
  • 13:30

    Austrian finance minister Hans Joerg Schelling: “What is missing are the details.”

    A guarantee is needed “that there will be an immediate implementation of the measures.”

  • 13:32
    What specifically are they talking about here?

    Earlier today Greece's three creditor institutions, the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, gave a positive assessment of the program as a basis for a €74 billion bailout, according to Bloomberg.

  • 13:33
    “The institutions have analysed the Greek proposals and we have jointly decided that they constitute a basis for negotiating a new financial assistance program,” European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told reporters in Brussels.

  • 13:34
  • 13:47
  • 13:57

    Michael Noonan has said the Greek government needs to move swiftly to implement austerity measures contained in its bailout plan to prove it is serious and increase trust with its creditors, Irish Times political correspondent Fiach Kelly reports from Brussels.

    “I am glad they got such a parliamentary majority last night,” Noonan said.

    “A lot of people today would be concerned that Greeks should move and start implementing measures immediately because the parliamentary majority of the Government in Athens now is being eroded, and they may not have the capacity to implement the measures they have agreed as time goes by.

    “It would certainly build up trust if they stayed in parliament next week and the week after and start implementing by way of legislating what they have now agreed to support.”

    You can read Fiach’s full story on the website.

  • 14:01
  • 14:02
  • 14:08

    Derek Scally reports: Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem said ministers were "not there yet" on a deal with Greece and that concerns remained on the issue of trust that promised reforms will be implemented.
    "They will have to show a very strong commitment to rebuild trust," he said on his way into the meeting.

  • 14:13
    On a day of vague mumblings and circumspection, it is almost a pleasure to see one European finance minister cut to the chase.
    Austria’s Hans Joerg Schelling sees a 60/40 chance a new bailout deal can be struck for Greece, getting straight down to specifics.
    Austrian news agency APA reported him as saying these odds only apply if Greece provided guarantees on the implementation of reform measures.
    “If the guarantees don't come, this will reverse,” he said.

  • 14:15
  • 14:17
    Oh no! Anything the Greeks (in parliament) can do...

    According to Italian FinMin Padoan, today's Eurogroup meeting is going to be a long one.
  • 14:18
  • 14:23
  • 14:31
    The BBC is reporting ministers from some smaller countries, including Lithuania, Slovakia and Latvia, are facing “fierce opposition” domestically to any kind of third bailout agreement.
  • 14:36
    Cliff Taylor writes on the situation so far:

    The mood music was about as good as could have been expected before the eurogroup meeting.

    However it is clear that a number of countries have reservations and that this is far from a done deal.

    There are three broad possible outcomes. First the ministers could sanction the start of bailout talks, meaning they see a basis for agreement. This would not mean a deal is done and problems could still emerge, but it would be a big step forward.

    Second the ministers could say they made some progress but not yet enough to signal formal talks.

    This might then require discussion at an EU leaders summit tomorrow and maybe by the finance ministers again at a meeting on Monday.

    The third possibility is failure and the calling of the leaders' summit tomorrow to discuss Grexit . That would be a big call after Greece signalled concessions and officials gave a broadly favourable view. A long meeting in Brussels seems on the cards.

  • 14:53
    As the eurogroup of finance ministers begins its session – one of the most anticipated in the history of the EU – a continent holds its breath. But for how long? This could be a long meeting, potentially with more twists and turns.

    Germany’s Wolfgang Schaeuble was one of the last arrivals and continued to set a sombre tone with characteristic predictions of an “extraordinarily difficult” discussion.

    The BBC reports him as saying: “Our problem is that a situation has developed, where trust and hope created in the last years was destroyed in a very short time.

    “We've seen a referendum in which a clear majority voted against conditionality. Now we see the exact opposite of that.”

    That’s exactly what many in Greece are saying.

  • 15:04

    Schäuble is really setting the context on the way into this meeting. Here's more from Berlin Correspondent Derek Scully:

    German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble struck a downbeat note in Brussels, saying the euro group was facing into “extremely difficult negotiations”.

    Based on Berlin's assessment of the Greek proposals, Dr Schäuble said Greek public finances were facing financing gaps “that go beyond anything we had in the past”.

    Though he said Athens was sitting on piles of unpaid bills far beyond anything anyone believed would be paid, he echoed Chancellor Angela Merkel's remarks on Tuesday in Brussels that debt haircuts for Greece were “not going to happen”.

    The German finance minister said that, based on his reading of the European treaties, “debt relief is not possible in the currency union”.

    While many finance ministers and officials from Greece's creditors took an upbeat note on arriving in Brussels on Saturday, Dr Schäuble castigated the Syriza-lead government for, until recent days, having “destroyed” hope of recovery in Greece on an “unimaginable” scale.

  • 15:18
    <br />German finance minister Wolfgagn Schäuble arriving in Brussels a little earlier with a clear message for the media and watching public: 'Our problem is that a situation has developed, where trust and hope created in the last years was destroyed in a very short time.'

    German finance minister Wolfgagn Schäuble arriving in Brussels a little earlier with a clear message for the media and watching public: "Our problem is that a situation has developed, where trust and hope created in the last years was destroyed in a very short time."
  • 15:22
    Trust is the theme of the day.

    “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” And who knows the world of negotiation better than Warren Buffett?

  • 15:36
    Meanwhile, back at the rántso, and after last night’s Greek parliament approval of a new reform package, things remain on a knife edge for the political viability of Alexis Tsipras (pictured above).

    Ruadhán Mac Cormaic has this from Athens:

    So, just before 4am, after a long and at times acrimonious debate, sleep-deprived Greek MPs voted to authorise the government to negotiate with Greece’s lenders on the basis of the 13-page document it sent to Brussels yesterday.

    That’s the headline, but Tsipras’s domestic problems may only be beginning.

    Look at the numbers. Some 250 MPs voted Yes this morning - a huge majority of parliament - thanks to firm support from the main conservative and centrist opposition parties.

    Within Syriza’s bloc of MPs, there were eight abstentions, seven absentees and two No votes. Among those who didn’t vote with Tsipras were two cabinet ministers and the speaker of parliament.

    Given that abstentions are not counted as No, technically the government’s majority is intact. In reality, however, Tsipras needed the opposition votes. Without them, the package would have been rejected. That fact will destabilise the government and threaten Tsipras’s majority. To complicate matters, there is another group of about 15 Syriza MPs who voted Yes this morning but say they won’t support austerity measures.

    That’s a big problem, because even though this morning’s vote was carried, a series of parliamentary votes will be needed over the coming days and weeks to implement the spending cuts and tax rises the government is proposing. Tsipras cannot simply stagger on, depending on the opposition for his majority every time.

    The prime minister said this morning that he would deal with the most pressing task first, which is to hammer out the best deal he can with the creditors.

    But after that he has to decide what he does about the internal dissent. Will he call elections, or will he try to put together a new coalition - perhaps even a government of national unity designed specifically to push this controversial package through parliament?

  • 15:37
  • 15:46

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny says he is hopeful a third bailout programme for Greece will be approved.

    “If it can be concluded [in Brussels today] so much the better. If that is not the case then clearly the leaders of the full European Council will be summoned to Brussels. I would be very optimistic, I have to say, because I think it can all be put together.

    “Prime minister Tspiras was very clear about what his intentions were in complying with requirements in terms of continuing to have Greece as a functioning member.

    "The leaders of the Eurozone were very adamant in their encouragement and their support, with conditions attached of course, for Greece. This is called democracy.”

  • 15:49
  • 15:53
  • 16:15
    Things are quietening down now and as the doors close on the Europe’s finance ministers it’s just a question of how long these talks last. It looks very much like a long day and night ahead but nobody really knows. The message coming from Brussels: don’t believe anyone who pretends to.
  • 16:35
    Some more analysis from Ruadhán Mac Cormaic in Athens:

    The first question that sprung to mind when the Greek government published its proposals on Friday was: how on earth will prime minister Alexis Tsipras (above) sell this to his party and his people?

    After all, the document is strikingly similar to the creditors’ proposal of June 26th, which Greek voters emphatically rejected, on Tsipras’s advice, in a referendum last Sunday.

    We got an answer in the early hours of this morning, when Tsipras addressed the Greek parliament. He was upfront and frank. He’s not pretending this is what Syriza spent the last six months fighting for, or what it promised in January’s election campaign.

    Broadly, his explanation is along these lines:

    We did everything that was humanly possible to get a better deal. Yes, we made mistakes, we were inexperienced, but we pushed this to the very end. We played hardball, and we tried to strengthen our negotiating hand through the referendum, in the hope that the lenders would be persuaded by the power of a democratic vote. But it simply didn’t work. We came up against some very powerful people - in Brussels, in Berlin, in the ECB, in the IMF. Some of them were determined to get Greece out of the eurozone. We pushed as far and as hard as we could, we brought it to the wire and, in the end, this week, they gave us an explicit ultimatum: either you sign on the dotted line or you’re out of the euro zone. Now we're out of road. We’re in “the burning zone” (his words) and decisions have to be made. Do we accept or do we leave the euro?

    What Tsipras told parliament was that he didn’t have a mandate to bring Greece out of the single currency. I think that’s true - it was hard last weekend to find a No voter who wanted that to happen.

    He also told MPs that Greece has got some concessions it didn’t have two weeks ago. In late June, the proposals were for a five-month lifeline of €7 billion. This time, for the same terms, Greece will get €53 billion or more over three years. He sees that as an achievement. He also points out that, this week, key European leaders and the IMF are publicly talking about debt relief. That wasn’t the case before the referendum.

  • 16:37
    Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras: We did everything that was humanly possible to get a better deal.
    Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras: We did everything that was humanly possible to get a better deal.
  • 16:52
    Derek Scally in Berlin has written an interesting piece on the German tabloid Bild (pictured above) and the role it has played in fomenting opinion in the country.

    “After seven hours of debate, securing a mandate for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to negotiate a third aid package with its creditors, Bild's headline on its story: ‘Tsipras laughs and we pay, pay pay.’,” writes Scally.

    “The strident tone continued in an editorial under the headline ‘Loser Germany’, complaining that Germans will ‘it seems pay further billions for Greece (and most likely more again)’.”

    This attack is not unusual in a newspaper that reaches some 12 million readers. It had already coined the term “Pleitegriechen” or “deadbeat Greeks” and demanded Athens “sell a few islands” to pay its debts.


  • 16:52
  • 17:13
    Some reaction and quotes from the day so far:

    “The decisions taken by Europe in the next several days will determine Greece’s fate; wittingly or not, they will determine the EU’s fate as well.” – US economist Jeffrey Sachs.

    “Prime Minister Tspiras was very clear about what his intentions were in complying with requirements in terms of continuing to have Greece as a functioning member. The leaders of the Eurozone were very adamant in their encouragement and their support, with conditions attached of course, for Greece. This is called democracy.” – Taoiseach Enda Kenny.  

    “Tsipras laughs and we pay, pay, pay.” – Headline in German tabloid Bild.

    “A lot of people today would be concerned that Greeks should move and start implementing measures immediately because the parliamentary majority of the Government in Athens now is being eroded.” – Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

    “Our problem is that a situation has developed, where trust and hope created in the last years was destroyed in a very short time.” – German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

    “No going back.” – Headline in the Syriza-aligned newspaper Avgi.

    “The first significant act of Greece’s new finance minister was a near capitulation to its creditors, in a last ditch effort to end a flirtation with exit from the euro.” – Financial Times opinion.

    “One doesn't have to go very far to see how easy it can be to ruin a recovery.” – Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s views aired conveniently ahead of his country’s forthcoming elections.

    “There is still a lot of criticism on the proposal, reform side, fiscal side, and there is of course a major issue of trust.” – Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

  • 17:15
    Economist Jeffrey Sachs, and his insights on the Greek debt negotiations, lead the way in some of our quotes from proceedings so far.
    Economist Jeffrey Sachs, and his insights on the Greek debt negotiations, lead the way in some of our quotes from proceedings so far.
  • 17:22

    Just in from Irish Times political correspondent Fiach Kelly on the ground:

    Sources suggesting meeting only now getting down to the detail of Greek proposals for a third bailout. A long night ahead.

  • 17:29
    Cliff Taylor reports:

    Word is that Germany and a number of its Northern and Eastern European allies took a hard line in opening statements.

    It is hard to know how this one will go. Are they trying to push Greece to firm up on its commitments, or preparing to say “no”?

    Finland is reportedly taking a particularly hard line – one report from the Finnish media suggests it has rejected the Greek plan, but this is not confirmed.

    One of the problems here is the difficulty in deploying the option of further discussions if a deal cannot be reached today.

    The Greek banks urgently need more cash – and to give it to them the ECB needs to see signs of progress.

    Possibly it could run to Monday's scheduled finance ministers' meeting. Speaking of the banks, speculation is growing that part of the deal will be a substantial recapitalisation of the major institutions. There is a lot to agree and very little time.

  • 17:44
    Some intriguing breaking news from Derek Scally:

    German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble has reportedly flagged a five-year Greek exit from the eurozone as one option for resolving the five-year crisis in the country.

    As euro finance ministers meet in Brussels, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine's Sunday edition has published extracts from a leaked finance ministry paper that raises a so-called Grexit as one of two options to prevent further deterioration of the situation.

    The paper reportedly views the latest proposals from Athens, the basis for today's talks about a third aid programme, as failing to address “central, important reform areas to modernise the country and bring sustainable development”.

    Thus the FAS says the Berlin finance ministry concludes in its analysis that the proposals “cannot be the basis for a completely new ESM programme on a three-year basis”.

    The ministry paper reportedly sketches out two possible scenarios should Berlin gain support for its opinion. The first would see Greece, with parliamentary support, hand over assets worth €50 billion to a trustee fund which would sell them and set off the proceeds against Greek debt.

    The second Berlin proposal: the EU agrees a temporary Grexit of at least five years to allow Athens restructure its debts. The country would remain a full EU member and would be given technical and financial support for measures to boost growth and address humanitarian needs.

    A spokesman for the German finance ministry said: "We have no comment on the report."
  • 18:00
    Whispers are starting to leak from within the finance ministers’ talks in Brussels. Germany, as expected, and Northern and Eastern European nations are believed to be adopting a tough stance while part of any potential deal may include a substantial recapitalisation of major financial institutions. All signs point to a long night ahead.
    Whispers are starting to leak from within the finance ministers’ talks in Brussels. Germany, as expected, and Northern and Eastern European nations are believed to be adopting a tough stance while part of any potential deal may include a substantial recapitalisation of major financial institutions. All signs point to a long night ahead.
  • 18:25
    German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has not raised the possibility of a Greek exit from Europe at crisis talks in Brussels, Reuters reports.

    “The issue of a Grexit has not been raised by anyone, including Schaeuble,” a Greek government official told Reuters.

    Earlier, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) reported Germany's Finance Ministry suggested two alternative courses for Athens including a “timeout” from the euro zone.

    A second Greek official said such reports were never raised at the Eurogroup meeting, where Greece was making a last-ditch appeal to secure billions of euro in international funding assistance to stave off financial meltdown.

  • 18:28
  • 18:30
    This issue of a proposed "five year European suspension" of Greece is really grabbing the attention of many. Either it's a very serious issue, or there just isn't much else to talk about right now.
  • 18:32
    What's that up ahead?
  • 18:37
    Bloomberg says European hardliners led by Germany dampened expectations that a deal with Greece was at hand, questioning whether the government in Athens can be trusted to keep its word in exchange for a €74 billion bailout.

    The German finance ministry proposed that Greece be suspended from the euro area for five years, according to a report by Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

  • 18:41
    And in keeping with the perpetual, dizzying motion of this story, Reuters reports a positive outlook emanating from the financial hierarchy:

    The chances for a third bailout programme for Greece are improving, Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann told newspaper Oesterreich in an interview to be published on Sunday.

    “We are certainly closer to a deal than we were earlier. I would even say the chances for an agreement for a Greece bailout programme have never been so good as they are now,” he said.

    “However, we are still far from a final yes for the bailout because some countries have lost trust.”

    ...there’s the “T” word again.  

  • 18:47
  • 18:51
  • 19:05
    As everyone scrambles to tie down the bone fides of this German position paper suggesting a five year exit, the BBC urges caution:

    Although this paper appears to come from within the finance ministry, it notes, it does not necessarily reflect Germany's actual position in the talks. Indeed, there are some indications that it doesn't.

  • 19:10
  • 19:14

    They’re on a break!  

    Cliff Taylor reports: Seems the Greeks are taking to the institutions - the EU Commission, ECB and IMF to see whether some of the concerns of member states can be met in a new paper.

    The full meeting will then resume. As rumours swirl, it is still not clear how far we will get today or whether the EU leaders’ summit pencilled in for tomorrow will go ahead .

  • 19:19

    While European media and commentators have been rightly and understandably focusing their attention on the political and fiscal dimensions of brokering an 11th-hour bailout, the New York Times has maintained its coverage of the human fallout.

    Tomorrow’s front page continues the trend with a story by Anemona Hartocollis:

    “Poverty in Greece has been deepening since the financial crisis began more than five years ago. Now, aid groups and local governments say they are beginning to feel the effects of nearly two weeks of bank closings, as Greece struggles to keep its financial system from failing and break out of years of economic hardship.”

  • 19:23

    Reuters reports that capital controls imposed on Greece’s banks will remain in place for at least another two months.

    Economy Minister George Stathakis said the banks could reopen as soon as next week if an agreement with creditors is reached this weekend, but other restrictions on withdrawals and currency exports would remain in place for most.

    “That will stay in play for two months or some months,” he said.

  • 19:26

    Stathakis is also reported to have said dissenting lawmakers from Syriza, including ministers, should step aside if they disagree with government policies over bailout reforms.

    In a parliamentary debate which ended early on Saturday, ten Syriza members either abstained or rejected the roadmap of reforms.

    “If a lawmaker of a leftist party disagrees with the policies of the government...they should follow the rules and if they strongly disagree resign their seat,” he said.

  • 19:28
  • 19:38
    The Guardian is reporting that Greece’s creditors are drafting a response to its proposal which will set out further measures it expects to see put in play.
  • 19:40
    Early enthusiasm slowly turning to quagmire.
  • 19:45
    Yes, consensus in reporting appears to show finance ministers demanding even more from embattled Greek prime minister whose future is shaky enough based on what he already fought for.

    It doesn’t look like enough.

    Reuters is now reporting Greece goes beyond painful austerity measures accepted if negotiations are to open on a third bailout for bankrupt country to remain in the euro.

    Ministers lined up to vent their anger at Tsipras on arrival at their umpteenth emergency weekend meeting on debt crisis.

    EU officials forecast a deal would be reached by the end of the weekend, but two sources said there was consensus among the other 18 ministers that the leftist government in Athens must take further steps to convince them it would honour any new debts.

  • 19:48
  • 19:49
  • 19:54
  • 19:59
    Surely it’s not quite this bleak yet...
  • 20:19
    Ok, thanks for reading today. I'm going to hand over to Kilian Doyle who will update as and when things progress in Brussels.
  • 20:22
  • 20:28
    According to Ruadhán Mac Cormaic in Athens, Greek economy minister George Stathakis has said Greek banks could reopen quickly but capital controls will remain in place for at least two months.
  • 20:31
    Apparently, the finance ministers' dinner in Brussels is a rather sombre affair. Presumably, they're all stressed about what happens when the bill comes.
  • 20:42
    This is a rather illuminating graphic. The Germans won't like it much. Nor, one imagines, will Jeremy Clarkson, whose opinion of Mexicans as lazy and feckless went down like a lead balloon. A bit like his career at the moment, funnily enough.
  • 20:46
    AP is reporting that finance ministers and top officials of the euro zone want more concessions and committments from Athens.
    "Greece, they said, needed to do a lot more than just publish a 13-page plan of reform commitments before they could sign off on another multibillion-euro bailout deal which would keep the country afloat and prevent its exit from the euro. A European official at the talks said creditors want “more specific and binding commitments” from the Greek government. The official said there was a general feeling in the room that the Greek proposals are “too little, too late” and, as such, more proof of the government’s commitment to follow through is required. The official said those pledges do not “necessarily have to be austerity measures”.
  • 20:56
    We have news. Reuters is reporting that "sources close to the discussions" said the finance ministers were told some €25 billion of any bailout loan to Greece would be needed to recapitalise banks that are on the verge of collapse.
    That is more than double the amount that Athens forfeited in financial stability funds at the end of June when it walked away from talks on completing a previous bailout programme. The extra capital is needed because of the damage wrought by massive deposit withdrawals before a two-week bank holiday that was ordered on June 29th, when Greece imposed capital controls to stop savers and businesses emptying their accounts. Among other variables in negotiations on a possible package of Greek reforms in return for new loans, the International Monetary Fund is urging euro zone governments to reschedule Greek debts, with one scenario being a doubling of loan maturities to 60 years from 30 to ease Athens' repayment burden.

  • 21:11
  • 21:14
    The latest rumour is that Finland is taking a particularly hard line on Greece, warning that the Helsinki government could fall if there is anything less than Grexit. I must stress the word "rumour".
  • 21:19
  • 21:36
    Our man in Berlin, who is currently in Brussels, sends this from the front:

    Euro group talks in Brussels have run into difficulty after signals that eurosceptic populists in Finland's ruling coalition will bring down the two-month-old government if Helsinki backs a third aid package for Greece.
    Irish sources have said it was "increasingly difficult to reach common ground" as talks progressed in Brussels. Finnish opposition would prevent the euro group, meeting in Brussels, reaching a unanimous decision to open negotiations for a third Greek programe.
    That raises the stakes for a planned meeting of EU leaders, scheduled for Sunday to sign off on - or bury - the prospect of further assistance for Greece.
    The Finns party joined a three-way centre-right coalition in May but its leader Timi Soini, now foreign minister, has maintained that bailouts in general, and particularly bailouts to Greece, are a "pyramid scheme".
    Given the refusal of the Finns to back any third bailout in a parliamentary vote in Helsinki, liberal finance minister Alexander Stubb reportedly told his euro colleagues he could not agree to a third bailout as applied for by Athens. Government sources contacted in Finland declined to comment on the reports.

  • 21:55
    Methinks the Finnish bark may be worse than its bite.
  • 22:21
    Oh, great.
  • 22:51
    Nothing that is coming out of Brussels is particularly positive for anyone hoping against hope of a resolution tonight. For example: And then there's this:
  • 23:15
    The meeting of euro zone finance ministers has adjourned for the evening without a final decision on opening talks with Greece on a third bailout. It is also expected that the leaders of the euro zone countries will hold a summit in Brussels tomorrow afternoon.

    Thanks for sticking with us today and we'll resume in the morning.