NEWS

EU gives conditional nod to bailout

Ministers say Greece met most bailout terms but only agree to release funds for PSI for now

Eurozone finance ministers agreed on Thursday that Greece had met most of the demands set by creditors for a new 130-billion-euro bailout but said that at this stagethey would only release funding needed to secure a scheme aimed at reducing Greece?s debt, known as PSI (for private sector involvement).

Ministers, who met in Brussels ahead of a European Union leaders? summit, were satisfied by a slew of new laws and measures approved in Athens over the past week, according to the head of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker.

?Ministers note with satisfaction that Greece took swift and decisive action in the areas of fiscal consolidation, revenue administration, pension reform, financial sector regulation and supervision and growth-enhancing structural reforms,? Juncker said in a statement. He added, however, that creditors would determine in coming days whether ?prior actions? demanded of Greece had been transposed into law.

Juncker said ministers had given the green light for the eurozone?s crisis fund to issue 30 billion euros? worth of bonds for use as ?sweeteners? for private investors taking part in the PSI. But he said that no more aid would be released until the PSI is completed successfully.

It is expected that finance ministers will hold a teleconference call next week to decide upon granting the final approval for the Greek bailout. The call is likely to be held on March 9, when the Greek government is set to announce the result of its offer to bondholders.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos joined his peers for the EU summit on Thursday night and was expected to stress the need for measures to boost growth. The premier also held talks on the sidelines of the summit with his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Nikola Gruevski, on a bilateral dispute regarding the Balkan state?s name. Papademos?s office said both leaders had expressed ?the political will for the continuation of negotiations mediated by the United Nations aimed at finding a mutually acceptable solution.?

The leader of conservative New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, was also in Brussels on Thursday for a meeting of the European People?s Party and met with Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Samaras also stressed the need to boost growth and liquidity.

PASOK leader George Papandreou, in Brussels for a meeting of the Party of European Socialists, said Europe was finally showing understanding of the need to balance austerity with growth.

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