Greek talks to be ‘intensified’: Eurogroup head

Eurogroup President and Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem states bailout talks with Greece will intensify | © AFP | EMMANUEL DUNAND

Brussels (AFP) | 20 March 2017 19:12

Differences remain wide on unlocking the latest tranche of cash for Athens from its 86-billion-euro ($91 billion) bailout agreed in 2015.

“A lot of work has been done and progress made, but still some issues remain,” Dijsselbloem said after discussions with the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers.

“We have agreed that talks will continue intensified in the coming days here in Brussels focusing on the key outstanding topics which I hope are limited,” added Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister.

He said the ministers would meet again on April 7 “but there is no promise all the work will be done by then”.

Athens needs the latest tranche of bailout cash to meet seven billion euros of new debt payments in July or risk defaulting on its loans.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos told reporters he would stay in Brussels to try to inch closer to a deal after months of deadlock, including resistance over further reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund.

“Our strategy is to remain here and make substantial progress and leave few issues (unresolved), and none if we can,” Tsakalotos said after the talks.

Tsakalotos said a deal would be in reach before the next meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on April 7.

Talks between Greece, eurozone governments and the IMF have been bogged down for months over a complicated list of issues.

Worryingly, creditor officials left Athens earlier this month after failing to sign off on the second review of Greece’s bailout and freeing up new funds.

The IMF has demanded tax hikes and pension cuts before it will lend further cash to Athens.

But the Washington-based lender has also insisted that Greece’s debt is not sustainable and that the country requires debt restructuring. The fund will not participate in a new loan programme if it considers the debt untenable.

But European governments, especially Germany, have resisted providing more debt relief and dispute the fund’s analysis, instead calling for more economic policy steps including pension reforms, tax hikes and increased privatisation.

The last such impasse, which followed the election of Greek premier Alexis Tsipras in early 2015, nearly saw Athens expelled from the euro.

© 2017 AFP

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