Another week, another act in Europe’s Greek drama.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Friday he was “cautiously optimistic” that Greece would clear the final hurdles for its second bailout package sometime this week, possibly even before a meeting of policy makers from the Group of 20 major economies. The alternative – “a disorderly exit by Greece from the euro zone,” in Mr. Flaherty’s words – is too unpalatable for European officials to fall short, yet again.
Here are some euro crisis dates to circle in your calendar:
Monday: European finance ministers gather in Brussels, a follow-up to a meeting that was supposed to take place last Wednesday but was cancelled at the last minute. Germany, the euro area’s paymaster, indicated late last week that the ministers might now be ready to back Greece’s second bailout in two years – worth €130-billion – after a tense week of haggling among officials. Key to this is a willingness by Germany to not separate the timetable for the aid from a writedown of Greek debt to private bondholders, and agree to it all as one package. Greece needs approval from the euro-zone ministers to launch the debt-swap scheme.
Feb. 25-26: Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers meet in Mexico City to start laying the groundwork for a G20 leaders’ summit later this year. Mr. Flaherty’s comments on Friday could set the tone for the gathering; he repeated the long-held Canadian view that Europe must commit to absorbing most of the cost of resolving its debt crisis before it can expect help from other countries through the International Monetary Fund. “They are fully capable, they have the fiscal capacity to do so, instead of coming to the non-European G20 countries and asking us to pony up,” he told BNN. “The sine qua non is that Europe moves first.”
March 1-2: European leaders meet. Perhaps the last shot at avoiding a default if this week’s meeting of finance ministers fails.
March 20: The ultimate target: The deadline by which Greece must pay €14.5-billion in redemptions to bond holders. If Athens cannot do so, it will trigger the first sovereign-debt default in euro zone history.