Eurogroup: Joint statement was nearly finalized when Schauble left

A deal was reached, but when the German FinMin and others left the room it all fell apart

The Eurogroup meeting on Wednesday was kicked off on a positive note as Greek Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis detailed the failures of the current bailout program. Their EU partners carefully listened as the two Greek officials presented the “bridge program” along with the series of measures and reforms this would entail, but without austerity.

The seating arrangements at last night's Eurogroup meeting

The seating arrangements at last night’s Eurogroup meeting

Three deals were drafted. A “final” deal had been reached at some point, but then German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and a number of other EU finance ministers departed from the meeting believing that a statement had been agreed upon. Varoufakis took the floor again with objections to the wording of the deal and it fell apart. According to press reports, Varoufakis phoned Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, who expressed opposition to the word “extending” in the draft final communique.

Here is a transcript of the deal that almost was (from the Financial Times):

Today the Eurogroup took stock of the current situation in Greece and the state of the current adjustment programme. In this context, the Eurogroup has engaged in an intensive dialogue with the new Greek authorities.

The Greek authorities have expressed their commitment to a broader and stronger reform process aimed at durably improving growth prospects. At the same time, the Greek authorities reiterated their unequivocal commitment to the financial obligations to all their creditors.

On this basis, we will now start technical work on the further assessment of Greece’s reform plans. The Greek authorities have agreed to work closely and constructively with the institutions to explore the possibilities for extending and successfully concluding the present programme taking into account the new government’s plans.

If this is successful this will bridge the time for the Greek authorities and the Eurogroup to work on possible new contractual arrangements. We will continue our discussions at our next meeting on Monday 16 February.