Marcus Evans Group | Worldwide Headquarters | American Offices | Latin America | European Offices | African / Asian Offices

Welcome to the Greek-style groundhog day. Again

With the debt negotiations dragging on, every day in Greece feels like one of Bill Murray’s in Punxsutawney

Groundhog day is not normally associated with Greece. It’s part of American folklore: a guide to the forthcoming weather depending on whether the pesky rodent pops out of its burrow on 2 February each year; and a Hollywood movie where a TV weatherman is forced to live the same day over and over again.

But as the government in Athens goes into its fourth week of negotiations with its private sector creditors, every day in Greece feels like one of Bill Murray’s in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. A sense of déjà vu is dominating the crisis – a pas de deux between Greece and its bondholders that was first mooted last July. Every day Greek officials and EU mandarins predict a deal “within days”; every Friday they pledge an agreement by the end of the weekend.

Thursday was the same: “We are very close and hopefully will reach an agreement within the next days or weeks,” said Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann.

What was certain, said Pandelis Kapsis, the Greek government spokesman, was that Thursday was “important”. Just “three or four thorns” continued to dog talks between the debt-stricken nation and its “troika” of lenders, and they might be resolved quite swiftly.

“We are under pressure of time,” Kapsis said of the negotiations between Athens and the European commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund over a bailout programme. “I think today is an important day. We will see how it will end.”

As it turned out, it ended like all the others so far: no deal.

Perhaps because the debt crisis is such uncharted territory for policy-makers who never believed it would happen, every day – some would say hour – is important for Greece. Ever since the crisis erupted in December 2009, not a week has gone by without a crucial event that could “make or break” the country and, by extension, the eurozone. As the pressure has built, so has the anger among a populace that has been forced to endure unprecedented austerity in return for rescue loans that have just about kept bankruptcy at bay.

The by-products of the crisis – galloping unemployment, rampant homelessness and an increase in the number of sick and hungry – have reached such dramatic proportions that yesterday Greece’s spiritual leader, Archbishop Ieronymos, spoke of his “anguish” in a letter to prime minister Lucas Papademos. Increasingly, non-government officials say it is hard for ordinary Greeks to understand or accept how three years into the crisis so little headway has been made.

With no turnaround in sight, the political leaders who back Papademos’s three-party interim coalition will hold talks with him today in the hope that some consensus can be reached on the conditions attached to the new bailout programme.

By late last night, little progress had been reported in the negotiations with private creditors or with troika officials – despite an announcement that Charles Dallara, who represents private bondholders as head of the Institute of International Finance, would be returning to Athens for talks over the weekend.

There will be yet more waiting, another groundhog day for Greece. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds