With the clock ticking loudly for Greece and its creditors, a deal was reached by the parties on Thursday morning. This came right before the EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels where Greece Finance Evangelos Veniezelos planned to attend and update his counterparts with the news.
From the deal, Greece will receive EUR 130 billion ($172 billion) in new loans and avoid a March default. Before approval, talks had stalled between Greece Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and coalition leaders over disagreements in pension cuts.
There were also a few other sticking points. Venizelos had expressed concern that the group needed to be mindful of their decisions as they “will determine whether the country remains in the euro zone or whether its place in Europe will be endangered.”
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And another hotly contested austerity measure that was difficult to approve was a 22 percent drop in minimum wage to EUR 586 per month, according to The New York Times. All salaried workers will be affected by this because employers use this base wage as a benchmark.
In a statement by the prime minister’s office announcing the long-awaited agreement, it said, “Talks between the government and the troika on the issue, which had remained open for further elaboration and discussion, concluded successfully this morning. As is well-known, the program accompanies the new loan deal with which Greece is to receive €130 billion in funding.”
So what’s next for Greece?
Venizelos had bee scheduled to present a EUR 3.3 billion euros commitment to budget cuts in 2012 to the euro zone finance ministers meeting today. He said to reporters, “We need now the political endorsement of the Eurogroup for the final steps.”
Many of the ministers who planned to attend the meeting said not so fast as a final decision would not be made today.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said,”Greece has to implement what it has not implemented from the first programme before we can decide on a second.”
Back in Greece, the deal will need to be finalized and Parliament is scheduled to approve the measures on Sunday. Lenders will start releasing aid to Greece in an effort to prevent a default before its March 20 debt payment. The first installment was to pay EUR 89 billion but officials have now said the payment may be EUR 30 billion as a means to ensure Greece sticks to its terms.
For private investors, the deal will provide a bond swap where they could take losses as high as 70 percent. This will need to be finalized before the debt is due.
From this reduction, it will reduce Greece’s EUR 350 billion debt by approximately EUR 100 billion. ECB president Mario Draghi did not comment on the Greek bonds being held by the E.C.B. and its national central banks, which would be impacted under the swap deal.
And no surprise here, Greece’s two major labor unions will hold a 48-hour strike on Friday and Saturday to oppose the reforms.