Eurogroup praises Greek progress, elects Centeno as president

Goodbye to Jeroen Dijsselbloem. - at least until his next appointment - Photo euobserver.com

To Vima — The Eurogroup Monday approved the staff-level agreement between the Greek government and its creditors, in the context of the ongoing third evaluation of the country’s bailout programme, and elected Portuguese Finance Minister Mario Centeno as its new president, replacing Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

Centeno, whose candidacy was supported by Greece, was elected after three rounds of voting. His two-and-half- year term begins at the next eurogroup meeting on 13 January, 2018.

Mario Centeno a Harvard-educated economist beat off competition from rivals from Slovakia, Latvia and Luxembourg to secure the top post.

He has been praised for guiding Portugal out of its debt crisis and into the fastest growth. pace in at least a decade with the county’s budget deficit set to fall to its lowest in many decades.

Centeno will take over from current Eurogroup President, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, in January. The former Dutch minister is stepping down after five years in the job.

Dijsselbloem hailed the staff-level agreement between Greece and its creditors as exceptional, and noted that remaining prior actions were reviewed today. 

European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici told journalists that the agreement was the product of “constructive talks” between Greek authorities and lending institutions, “including the IMF”, and that the spirit of talks with the IMF was smoother and easier than in the past.

“There is a clear will for the evaluation to proceed smoothly and effectively and to be completed in a timely manner, so as to have an agreement before Christmas, as we had said,” Moscovici noted, adding that the Greek government’s determination to implement all prior actions as soon as possible is positive.

“The rapid progress that we achieved in this phase bodes well for the next steps, and naturally sends a positive message to investors. Things are moving in a very positive direction in Greece, so I believe this is a good day for Greece-EU relations, and for Greece itself,” Moscovici said.

What remains is for the government to pass into law all the related, conditional measures, so that at a 22 January Eurogroup meeting a political agreement can be reached in order for creditors to disburse the next loan tranche Greece needs to repay loans to its European partners and the IMF.  Greece now finances its spending needs from tax revenues.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos is aiming to close the fourth and last programme evaluation between May-June, 2018, and he expects debt talks to come straight on the heels of the 22 January agreement.