Greek talks stymied

April 1, 2015

Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis walks past  Eurogroup Chairman Dijsselbloem at a euro zone Finance Ministers meeting in Brussels

Greek negotiations are not moving much and an agreement before the Easter break looks increasingly unlikely.

Greece and its EU/IMF lenders failed to reach an initial deal to unlock aid after the creditors dismissed a package of reforms from Athens as ideas rather than a concrete plan.

A conference call will be held by euro zone deputy finance ministers today to take stock but it seems clear that the Greek government has not yet got anywhere near meeting its lenders’ requirements.

That meeting would have to agree that the list stacks up before passing it on to the euro zone finance ministers grouping to nail down a deal. We are a long way from that.

Germany has told Greece that no funds will be forthcoming until it has submitted a more detailed list of economic and fiscal reforms and some are enacted into law. The clock is ticking fast and the gap between the two sides remains wide.

A source familiar with Greece’s financial position told Reuters last week Athens would run out of money on April 20 without new cash.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Athens had a certain degree of flexibility on which reforms to implement but that they must “add up” to the satisfaction of European partners.

Greek Economy Minister George Stathakis said a deal should be reached next week on a package of reforms, which will help to unlock remaining bailout funds.

The initial list estimated a primary budget surplus of 1.5 percent for 2015 – below the 3 percent target included in the country’s existing EU/IMF bailout – and growth of 1.4 percent. It included measures to boost state revenues by 3 billion euros this year but no “recessionary measures” like wage or pension cuts.

Nigerian general Muhammadu Buhari won the election so decisively that there is a real prospect of it passing without the unrest or violence that blighted the 2011 poll.

Outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan has improved those odds by conceding defeat and telling his supporters to accept the result, a signal of deepening democracy that few had expected.

The margin of victory – Buhari got 15.4 million votes to Jonathan’s 13.3 million – was enough to prevent any challenge. Power will be handed over a the end of May. Buhari took power in a 1983 coup only to be booted out 18 months later by another general. He campaigned this time as a defender of democracy.

As well as the Boko Haram insurgency he must deal with the fallout from a dive in global oil prices which has hammered the economy and forced two de facto currency devaluations.

Six world powers and Iran missed a Tuesday deadline to reach an outline accord reining in Tehran’s nuclear programme, extending talks into an extra day. The talks broke up in the early hours and will reconvene shortly with Iran and Russia expressing optimism that an initial agreement was within reach.

With the United States threatening on Tuesday to abandon the negotiations, the talks have been bogged down on the issues of nuclear research, the lifting of U.N. sanctions and their restoration if Iran breaches the agreement.

A French official said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was leaving the talks and would return from France when it was “useful”.

Saudi troops clashed with Yemeni Houthi fighters in the heaviest exchange of cross-border fire since the start of a Saudi-led air offensive last week, while Yemen’s foreign minister called for a rapid Arab intervention on the ground.

The air strikes have not checked the Shi’ite Houthis. In the southern port of Aden, Houthi fighters they are pressing an offensive against forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, trying to capture the last remaining major stronghold of the absent president’s forces.

Manufacturing PMI surveys for euro zone countries will show whether the  more upbeat start to 2015 has continued into the last month of the first quarter. Equivalent surveys of China’s factory and services sectors showed stubborn weakness in the world’s second-biggest economy in March, adding to bets that Beijing will have to roll out more policy support to avert a sharper slowdown.

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