Dijsselbloem sees Greek debt relief talks in August

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem has said there is no need to discuss debt relief for Greece until August, with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble suggesting that the summer will be the time to also discuss a possible third bailout.

Ahead of today’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels, the Dutch finance minister played down the need to come up with a plan to reduce Greece’s public debt before the European Parliament elections in May.

“If the current program and all the conditions are fulfilled, then further disbursements can take place before May that will finance Greece right into August,” he said, adding that the Eurogroup would wait for confirmation of the size of Greece’s 2013 primary surplus from Eurostat first.

“There’s no reason to rush on the basis of the Eurostat figures, which will only come out at the end of April. In August, we’ll talk about the future,” he added.

“The debt has to be reduced. The question is who does it and how to do it. That is exactly what we will talk about after the summer.”

The date when troika inspectors will return to Athens is due to be agreed at the Brussels meeting and Schaueble indicated that tying up the loose ends from the adjustment program must be a priority for the Greek government.

“Greece and the troika have to concur that Greece is taking the steps that have been agreed in the program,” he told journalists.

“That condition must be met and then the next tranche can be paid. That’s not easy for Greece, but the Greek prime minister and the Greek finance minister have declared that they will meet the conditions.”

Reports in Germany over the weekend suggested that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blocked Schaeuble’s attempt to provide further bailout loans to Greece before the European elections.

The German finance minister said ahead of Monday’s Eurogroup meeting that a decision on a new package would be likely in the summer.

“After the end of the program we will have to examine in a timely fashion whether an additional, limited financing requirement is necessary, as we said very clearly when we passed the program 1.5 years ago. But it’s too early for that now; we’re doing things step by step.”