Daily Archives: June 23, 2011

UPDATE: The summit has broken up for the evening, and they’ve published the final conclusions on Greece. Only minor tweaks from draft version. Complete statement can be read here.

When the summit of European leaders began this evening, the big hole in the draft conclusions circulated to Brussels diplomats was language on Greece. Brussels Blog has now obtained a copy of that section, and though it contains few surprises, it does raise some key points that are worth highlighting.

First is the pressure they are placing on Antonis Samaras, the Greek opposition leader, to back the €28bn in austerity measures to be voted on next week. Officials say Samaras got a firm lecture from centre-right heads of government this afternoon during a pre-summit caucus in Brussels – and one official said he gave as good as he got.

In the draft conclusions, the leaders are more diplomatic, but still clear: they want cross-party support for the package, despite Samaras’ public declaration that he won’t back it. A critical €12bn aid payment is contingent on passing the package, and Athens will default on its debt if they don’t get the loan by mid-July. The section on the need for broad political backing is after the jump: 

The Socialist group were the first to gather in the traditional pre-summit party huddles, the real start of the festivities here in Brussels. Under a well-worn tradition, EU leaders from the major political groupings meet over lunch to coordinate their positions – and share gossip, one presumes – ahead of the actual leaders’ meeting today and tomorrow.

Well, that’s the idea anyway. In the Socialists’ case, none of their national leaders – including Spain’s José Luis Zapatero and Greece’s George Papandreou – were in attendance at the Albert Hall venue in downtown Brussels.

That left a hodge podge of opposition leaders, ministers, European commissioners, and other lesser-known officials as the only attendees to a pre-summit meeting for a summit to which they are not invited. The only exception was Cathy Ashton, the EU foreign policy supremo, who gets a look in on some of the council debates. 

Over at the largest pre-summit gathering, the centre-right European Peoples’ Party which is meeting across from the Belgian royal palace, the most highly-anticipated arrival was Antonis Samaras, the Greek opposition leader.

Heading into the caucus, Samaras repeated what he said in today’s Financial Times: that although he supports reform efforts, he can’t back the package proposed by the ruling Socialist government. 

Herman Van Rompuy, who as president of the European Council, will chair the summit

Although the eyes of Europe are on Athens, the two-day summit of European heads of government that starts today in Brussels may have little to add to the ongoing debate over what to do about Greece’s debt crisis.

That’s because most of the tough decisions left – particularly how to involve private bondholders in shouldering some of the cost of another Greek bail-out – have been put in the hands of finance ministers, who must hash out their differences before an emergency meeting July 3.

Economic issues will hardly be off the agenda, however, especially tonight. In his letter to European leaders, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, said tonight’s dinner will be focused on the economy – though largely issues that are not particularly controversial or have been decided by finance ministers.