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Is Greece's debt "menu" a tasty option?

Tuesday, February 03, 2015 - 02:18

Greece's new government has dropped calls for a write-off of its foregin debt and has proposed ending a standoff with its official creditors by swapping debt for growth-linked bonds. Sonia Legg asks if the new debt ''menu'' will win over a sceptical euro zone.

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From London to Rome - it's his third country in as many days. But Greece's Finance Minister knows time is running out. If Athens really is going to ditch its current rescue package it needs another one in place soon. Markets were pretty relaxed about the new debt "menu" on offer partly because Yanis Varoufakis has dropped talk of writing-off foreign debt and adopted a more conciliatory tone. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GREEK FINANCE MINISTER, YANIS VAROUFAKIS, SAYING: "No hand will be overplayed, because we're not entering this in a confrontational manner. This is what journalists love to portray the situation as, as a kind of Wild West showdown. This is not it." The idea is to swap debt for growth-linked bonds And economic reforms remain on the agenda, despite an initial rolling back on austerity. Michael Hewson is from CMC Markets (SOUNDBITE) (English) MICHAEL HEWSON, MARKET ANALYST, CMC MARKETS, SAYING: "The key question is whether the ECB or the monetary authorities consider it monetary financing or a significant restructuring so the fact that we have not had any EU officials come out and dismiss it out of hand is positive but it is very early days." One problem could be Greek banks. New reports suggest three of Greece's four major lenders have started tapping emergency liquidity assistance from Greece's central bank because of a rise in deposit outflows. A run on banks could be the "accident" which leads Greece out of the euro. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GREEK FINANCE MINISTER, YANIS VAROUFAKIS, SAYING: "There is no fundamental reason why the banks should have a problem. The only thing we need to do as politicians in Europe is we need to settle everyone's nerves by putting on display a joint commitment to doing our job as politicians, and that is to create the circumstances for stability in the euro zone." France's Finance Minister warned Greece not to play Paris off against Berlin. But it came with a message of understanding. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER MICHEL SAPIN SAYING: "It's not a unilateral programme, it's not Greece alone that decides, it's a question of dialogue. The fact that Greece, with its new government, needs a bit of space and a bit of time, seems natural." Varoufakis was again open-necked in Rome - it's a style decision taken by the whole Greek cabinet. Symbolic maybe - but Greece has reaffirmed it does want to remain firmly tied to the euro.

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Is Greece's debt "menu" a tasty option?

Tuesday, February 03, 2015 - 02:18