Talk on Greek debt ‘when time is right’

Finance Minister says no date has been set to discuss the lightening and sustainability of country’s arrears By Eleni Varvitsioti

No date has been set for negotiations over a lightening of Greece’s public debt, Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis said on Friday, stressing that it will take place when the time is right. The new finance chief also reiterated Athens’s pledge to meet its obligations to creditors this summer.

“We shall fulfill all 12 prior actions [required for the disbursement of the next bailout sub-tranches] before the August holidays, as the government has every intention to move rapidly toward implementing the reforms it has promised,” Hardouvelis told the last Ecofin council under Greece’s rotating presidency of the European Union.

Adding a personal touch to his address, Hardouvelis, who assumed the finance chief post after a government reshuffle earlier this month, told the council of the EU economy and finance ministers that: “Greece is entering a new era, and its citizens are managing their problems and showing the determination to resolve them.” The minister said that Greeks have been through six tough years, adding that every household is experiencing the crisis through unemployment and problems in the payment of salaries by enterprises.

Hardouvelis also made reference to growing calls within Greece for a more balanced policy by the Europeans so that promises made by the EU are followed by the necessary financial support.

He explained that the delay in the completion of the prior actions is due to the European elections last month, which froze procedures not only on a Greek but also on a European level. He repeated a pledge made on Thursday at the Eurogroup meeting, saying that the first six prior actions will be implemented by end-June, while the other six will be fulfilled by August.

Hardouvelis stressed that while the International Monetary Fund has guaranteed continued funding of the country, European funding, which is coming to its end, still depends on the prior actions, i.e. reforms. After the 2 billion euros Greece will receive with the implementation of the 12 prior actions, the eurozone will only have to disburse another 1.8 billion euros to Athens.