Greece urges creditors to strike new debt relief deal

23 May, 2017, 01:17 | Author: Elaine Woods

Athens' progress may not be the first item on the eurozone finance ministers meeting agenda, but the discussion could be long, as the European Union institutions and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are seeking for a common ground on debt relief.

Prime minister Alexis Tsipras is redoubling his push to reduce his country's debt burden after the economy fell back into recession unexpectedly at the start of the year.

"There is no excuse for further delay on the issue of debt relief".

Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, eurozone finance ministers were on Monday due to consider major debt relief and fresh aid for Greece despite the deep reservations of bailout-weary Germany.

Under the terms of the current Greek bailout program, the country has to enact a series of economic reforms in order to get the cash.

Without the deal, no new loans can be disbursed to Athens, even though the bailout is now handled only by euro zone governments.

A spokeswoman for Schaeuble's conservative-led finance ministry said that everybody wanted a solution "in the interest of Greece", adding it was up to euro zone finance ministers to find a solution during their talks in Brussels.

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Dijsselbloem made clear a formal decision on whether to grant Greece more debt relief would only be taken once the bailout ends in mid-2018, repeating a Eurogroup statement from May 2016, which also spelt out what relief could be considered.

"I expect, and (am) working on a deal today but it won't be the end deal", Dijsselbloem said.

Last week, Greek lawmakers approved economic measures in the hopes of mollifying creditors, including pension cuts, tax hikes and other structural economic reforms.

Speaking at a regular government news conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission were not far apart in their assessment on Greece.

Mr. Schaeuble later described reforms agreed by Greece as "remarkable" but said the Greek economy was not yet competitive and that Athens must press ahead with implementing its existing reforms-for-aid programme. He said that "extra measures if required" would come after the bailout program expires next year.

Macron explained his thinking about Greece in an interview to the Mediapart website two days before his election.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, named last week, is joining his peers for the talks Monday and is traveling to the Belgian capital with Wolfgang Schaeuble, his counterpart in Berlin who has been a vocal critic of Greece over the seven years of its bailout era.

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