Greece gives ground in debt talks

Miranda GreerFeb 22, 2017

"It is not a wise thing to reiterate the discussion about Greece's exit from the eurozone".

Athens faces debt repayments of seven billion euros ($7.43 billion) this summer that it can not afford without completing the current review of its rescue which would unblock new loans from the country's 86-billion-euro bailout.

There's no specific deadline for a deal, said Dijsselbloem, who is chairing the meeting, adding there would be "no acute need for money" in Greece before the summer.

"I'm very happy with that outcome today", Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister told a press conference.

A Greek government official said extra reforms were to be fiscally neutral and take effect from the start of 2019, after the latest bailout ends in 2018.

The hope is that Monday's meeting will lead to representatives from the institutions overseeing Greece's bailout returning to Athens.

"Most of the reforms have been necessary and could prove beneficial for the Greek economy in the long run", said George Pagoulatos, professor of European politics and economy at the Athens University of Economics.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble denied yesterday (19 February) that he had said Greece would have to leave the eurozone if it failed to implement economic reforms.

"Because that is my goal: to get the mission back in Athens on the ground to talk about all the hard stuff that needs to be sorted out".

Cabinet ministers stressed that Athens achieved to convince its lenders on the progress of the ailing economy and therefore focus will now be shifted to reforms after seven years of austerity, but opposition parties saw more harsh measures on the horizon.

"We managed to reach an agreement with structural reforms as its main outline, which will not have even one euro of budgetary impact - that is, not a single euro of additional austerity", Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told local Alpha TV.

"We're headed in the right direction, the eurozone have growth, all the eurozone members have growth", he said. "We are headed in the right direction in a hard environment". "But I'm not willing to pay any price for their participation, green-lighting the International Monetary Fund kind of debt relief - which Greece does not need".

The Europeans have ruled out an outright debt reduction but are open to other kinds of debt relief measures, such as extending Greece's repayment periods or capping the interest rates at relatively low levels. Greece signed up to a bailout worth up to 86 billion euros in 2015, its third global financial lifeline since 2010.

Unless the targets and reforms add up, the International Monetary Fund says it can not join the bailout despite insistence from Berlin that it should.

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