BRUSSELS, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Euro zone finance ministers and officials met on Monday to discuss the crisis in the euro zone, including speeding up work on their EFSF bailout fund and the situation in Greece and Italy.
Following are highlights of comments from the Eurogroup meeting:
“The Eurogroup warmly welcomed the recent political developments in Greece, especially the decision of the two biggest political parties to support a government whose mission will be to implement the decision of October 26.
“Today’s Eurogroup session shows that the euro area in its entirety is ready to implement the decision of October 26, starting from the timely disbursement of the sixth tranche, provided that the new government and the political forces that support it confirm, in writing also, the country’s commitments that are linked to the decision of the EU Council Summit of October 26. Immediately afterwards, the (EU/IMF) Troika will come to Athens for the necessary consultations that lead to the new programme.
“At the same time, the Eurogroup decided to go ahead, starting now, with all the processes that are linked to the participation of the private sector (PSI) in the new framework of the Greek sovereign debt’s sustainability, with its reduction by 100 billion euro, which equals to 50 percentage points of GDP.”
EUROGROUP PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER
“We were not asking for national unity in Italy, because Italy is not under a programme. That makes a difference between Italy and the three other countries, the Commissioner (Rehn) and myself, we mentioned.
“What we are expecting from Italy is that Italy will implement all the measures which have been announced in Silvio Berlusconi’s letter to both the president of the Council and the President of the Commission.”
“We agreed that enhanced monitoring of vulnerable member states is a fundamental part of the firewalls that should be in place to contain the crisis. While all member states should continue to implement their policy of fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, a particular effort will be required of member states experiencing tensions in sovereign debt markets.
“In that respect, and it took some time, we discussed the situation in Italy and welcomed the series of new measures recently announced by the Italian authorities, which include balancing the government budget by 2013 and readiness to take additional measures if needed, in pension reform, deregulation and labour market reforms.
“We welcomed the European Commission’s decision to intensify its monitoring of the Italian economy... in cooperation with the European Central Bank. We also welcomed the decision of Italy to invite the IMF to carry out a public verification of its policy implementation on a quarterly basis.”
ON INCREASING IMF RESOURCES FOR EURO ZONE LENDING CAPACITY:
“Following the declaration of the G20 leaders in Cannes, we briefly discussed the possible ways to increase the IMF resources in order to increase its lending capacity towards euro area member states and possibly increase the leveraging potential of the EFSF. Work is ongoing in this area and we’ll certainly have to review this again. As mentioned in the Cannes communique, work is expected to be concluded by the next G20 ministerial meeting probably by mid-February 2012.”
ON BOOSTING THE EUROPEAN FINANCIAL STABILITY FACILITY (EFSF):
“I was told that I should forget about a special purpose investment vehicle (SPIV) and the new wording is a co-investment fund.
“The EFSF will now consult in order to come up with the most effective arrangements. We intend to finalise the work of the operational details of the two options by the end of November in the form of guidelines that will be approved by the Eurogroup so that implementation can take place in December.”
“We agreed that enhanced monitoring of vulnerable member states is a fundamental part of the firewalls ... to contain the crisis.
“A particular effort will be required of member states experiencing tensions on sovereign debt markets.”
“Ultimately the responsibility lies in the hands of the Greek government. And now I trust that the new government of national unity will take this more seriously and will produce results as regards the fight against tax evasion.”
“We have warned about the problems related to the fight against tax evasion for two years. In every report we have raised this, and we have underlined the importance of taking appropriate measures in order to fight tax evasion, which is indeed a serious sickness of the Greek society and economy.
“But ultimately, the responsibility lies in the hands of the Greek government and, in a way, the whole Greek society, so that it’s up to every citizen to fight against corruption and to fight against tax evasion.”
“It is essential that the entire political class is now restoring the confidence that had been lost into the Greek commitment to the EU/IMF programme.
“We have been calling for a coalition government of national unity, which is currently in the making.
“It is essential that the new government... will express a clear commitment on paper, in writing, to the EU/IMF programme and its elements including the second programme.
“We will work with the new government once it has made this clear commitment.
“I believe it is possible that the sixth tranche can be disbursed in the course of November on the condition that there is a clear and unequivocal commitment by the new government and that it expresses its clear will to work towards a second programme.”
“As regards Italy, Finance Minister (Giulio) Tremonti reassured us on the determination to proceed quickly with the implementation of measures in the letter from the prime minister of Italy to the euro area summit on the 26th of October.
“I have signed a questionnaire last week and we expect that the Italian government will respond to these very specific questions with regards to the implementation of this programme by the end of this week.
“It is crucial to implement the fiscal policies as outlined in the letter of the prime minister and accelerate structural reform ... this is now the main task of Italy.”
“The measures being taken by Greece and by Italy are going in the right direction.”
“There are several option on the table. The EU has appropriate instruments to do it itself, but in general I think the cooperation between the IMF and the European Union has been excellent, so I don’t mind if on some issues we closely cooperate with the IMF.
“That is one of many options.”
“I think today is a day of discussions, not making decisions, but we will see.”
On Italy: “I think that the situation in Italy is quite serious.”
ON OPTIONS FOR BOOSTING THE EURO ZONE BAILOUT FUND, SUCH AS IMF SPECIAL DRAWING RIGHTS (SDRS):
“There will be three options to be discussed and we will look at what they are meant to look like.
“One is bilateral increases, the other is SDRs and the third a mix of more SDRs from all states.
“It’s about the IMF making a bigger contribution.”
“Gold is not even up for discussion.”
“I do hope they can free themselves from the current difficulties.”
“I am confident we’ll insist that all opposition parties will sign up to the reform package and do so in writing and that the reforms are started immediately and not after elections.
“Only once we have this certainty from all political powers in Greece the next tranche can be paid out.”
“There are several options on the table to increase the capacity of the emergency fund. The Netherlands thinks it is very important to increase the capacity and to increase the credibility of the fund. But there are several options with disadvantages, several options with more or less disadvantages. So we have to do it either way.
“In principle we agree with the... conclusion that we have to increase the capacity of the emergency fund, that’s very important but it’s not the only thing.
“Economic reforms and budget cuts in countries currently under attack from the financial markets are at least as important as more money in the emergency fund.”
“We have always said this is a crisis you cannot solve quickly, it took years to build up to this and we must all help to repair the damage with painful reforms in many countries in Europe.”
“The proposals to leverage up the firewall protection of the EFSF are quite good proposals, but of course it will take time before the technical work is done to make that happen.
“In the meantime and in parallel, the ECB has a role it must continue to play until the EFSF firewall is put in place, whenever that may be.
“Even when that has been put in place, it is going to be tested, so I think the ECB must carry out a parallel function until it is quite clear that the new firewall is doing its job.”
“In Greece the developments are cataclysmic. Every day a new situation. Greece must assure that what has been agreed can be implemented by Greece.
“In the current situation it is very important that not only the government... but also the opposition stand by the commitments. Those conditions must be fulfilled.
“The programme’s conditions must be met before we can decide about the payment of the tranche.”
“Italy is not in a comparable situation. The real numbers from Italy do not justify the nervousness in the markets.”
“It’s essential now that Italy will stick to its fiscal targets, ensure their implementation and intensify the structural reforms that can boost growth and job-creation.”
“It’s important that in fiscal policy, Italy... (ensures) that all objectives will be met, while in the structural reforms there is more room for being (on the) offensive and taking more courageous decisions, in order to boost growth and jobs in Italy.”
ASKED IF THERE WAS A EUROPEAN COMMISSION STUDY ON HOW A COUNTRY COULD LEAVE THE EURO ZONE:
“There is no such study.”
“Of course the Commission, like any organisation that has responsibilities over the welfare of people, in this case the welfare and future of Europe and European citizens, they have to do scenario planning and we have to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios. But there is no such study as to which you are referring.”
“We want to ensure that Greece can and will stay in the euro.”
“(Today’s) meeting takes place at a very critical juncture after the unraveling of political events that are still taking place in Greece.”
“We remain committed to support Greece... but the least we can now expect is that Greece sticks to those very decisions she has herself called for and committed to. This is essential, absolutely crucial for us to move forward.
“So we have called for a national unity government and we remained persuaded that it is the only convincing way of restoring confidence and meeting the commitments.”
“I met with (Greek) Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos earlier today here in Brussels and I trust he will report to the Eurogroup on the rather speedy process towards a coalition government of national unity in the next days.”
“Italy asked the IMF to monitor its commitments. The Commission on its part will go ahead with a detailed assessment... We will send a mission to Italy this week.”
“After a difficult week, we now have a new political situation, a political frame in Greece.
“We have a new government of national unity and of national responsibility. This is the proof of our commitment and of our national capacity to implement the programme and to reconstruct our country.”
EUROGROUP PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER
“I don’t think that we will have final decisions today. We’ll of course discuss the sixth disbursement, but it depends on the answers we’ll be given by the Greek government in order to know if yes or no we’ll release the sixth disbursement today. But anyway... the financial need will appear only around mid-December so we have some time to assess this question.”
“That depends on the answers the Italian government will deliver.”
“I don’t expect any decisions to be made today. We have to learn about the exact situation in Greece today and also speak about the intentions of the Italian government.” (Reporting by John O’Donnell, Jan Strupczewski, Annika Breidthardt, Luke Baker, Robert-Jan Bartunek, Robin Emmott, Ben Deighton and Rex Merrifield)