No more aid expected for Greece before March, says Stournaras

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Monday that further rescue funding is unlikely to be approved before March as European officials meeting in Brussels pressed Athens to intensify its reform efforts.

Stournaras was speaking at the conclusion of a summit of eurozone officials in Brussels where Greece was not officially on the agenda but was discussed on the sidelines. He said he hoped a deal could be reached with troika officials next month, paving the way for the release of aid in March, and suggested that a primary surplus for 2013, estimated at 830 million euros, would help plug a fiscal gap for 2014. “The matter has been solved in a way that cannot be disputed,” he said.

Stournaras added that any fiscal gap for 2015 would be covered with structural reforms, not further austerity measures. Asked about the cost of a recent court decision, leaked to the Greek media, that reverses wage cuts for military and security services employees, Stournaras said he could not comment on a decision that has not yet been announced.

European officials pressed Greece to move forward with reforms. Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who leads the Eurogroup, said there has been “far too little” progress. “I am sorry to say that the review is not yet concluded and further work is needed in Greece before the troika can return to Athens,” he said. “We call on Greece and troika partners to do their utmost to conclude negotiations as soon possible,” he added.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble noted that Greece’s fiscal data “looked good” but that “further efforts are needed,” while Michael Spindelegger of Austria expressed concerns about structural reforms and a lagging privatization program.

Apart from pushing Athens to move forward with stalled structural reforms and state sell-offs, envoys representing Greece’s troika of international lenders have pressed government officials to adopt a raft of proposals aimed at removing barriers to competition.

The proposals are set out in a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the government is prepared to enforce 80 percent of them, sources revealed after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partner Evangelos Venizelos discussed the matter last week. But sources close to Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said there is resistance to many reforms, particularly among the ranks of PASOK. “Nothing has been resolved,” one source said.