Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb expressed optimism that a deal will be struck with Greece in the coming days, allowing the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to meet debt payments later this month.
“Things are looking much better right now,” Stubb said in an interview on Thursday in Helsinki. “We have indicators that the Greek government is more serious now. The path towards recovery has started. It is going to be long but we have weathered the worst of the storm.”
Stubb, who at the height of the deadlock earlier this summer argued it might be time to move to Plan B, said he’s confident euro-area finance ministers gathering in Brussels on Friday will be able to reach some sort of deal. The Greek parliament is expected to vote Thursday on measures agreed to with creditors earlier this week to receive 85 billion euros ($95 billion) in aid.
Germany’s government on Wednesday withheld approval of the current draft plan, saying a bridge loan remains an option if a full program isn’t agreed in time to pay 3.2 billion euros due next week to the European Central Bank. Stubb said it makes little difference to Finland whether it’s a conclusive deal now for the full aid package or just a bridge loan to meet the ECB payment.
“We are quite agnostic about which one is used,” Stubb said. “If more time is needed we can do that. If we can already now verify that the measures that have been agreed by the Greek government and the troika will fully take place, we will probably be willing to give a green light to the program.”
Stubb, who leads Finland’s National Coalition party, has faced resistance to a third Greek bailout from a ruling coalition partner. But Foreign Minister Timo Soini, head of The Finns, said this month that although another bailout won’t work, he is ready to discuss an aid package because the alternative would be even more costly.
A Finnish parliamentary committee that includes opposition lawmakers on Thursday gave Stubb the mandate to reach a deal on a third bailout during Friday’s talks. The agreement does not need to go back to the committee, which had to sign off on any accord, provided that 47 conditions spelled out earlier by Greece’s creditors are met, Stubb said.
“I try to keep the eye on the ball and focus on the task ahead -- that is to keep Greece in the euro zone and have a stable euro zone,” he said. “I believe that we are not looking at Greek default anymore -- that the solution will be found. We’ve come so far already.”