NEWS

Eurozone chief to decide Wednesday on new Greece talks

TAGS: Economy, Politics

Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem said he will decide Wednesday whether to hold another meeting of the zone’s finance ministers this week to unlock bailout cash and trigger potential debt relief for Greece.

"We may possibly hold another eurogroup meeting on Thursday to finalize as many things as possible," Dijsselbloem told Dutch broadcaster RTL-Z during his weekly interview on Tuesday.

"But it is not definite yet. That will be decided tomorrow (Wednesday), because I really want to know whether it will have a chance of succeeding. Otherwise we will take more time."

Athens still needs to deliver crucial reforms in order to unlock more bailout cash.

The Dutch finance minister, who leads the eurogroup, had already said he hoped to have another meeting on Thursday to review Greece’s massive 86-billion-euro ($95 billion) bailout plan after talks with the International Monetary Fund in Amsterdam last week.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in July secured the country’s third bailout in five years in return for reforms.

But in one of the few concessions handed to Greece, eurozone leaders agreed to also debate ways of easing Greece’s debt burden once key reform pledges were met.

Reducing Greece’s mountain of public debt is a key condition set by the IMF to remain a partner in the rescue plan.

The European Union has said the country’s debt stood at 177 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 – almost twice Greece’s entire economic output in one year.

"We’re not just going to say ‘Let’s drop it,’ and were not going to lift a part of the debt. But we could decide to give more time or to grant them some periods without interest payments or reimbursements," Dijsselbloem said Tuesday.

To persuade the IMF to stay on board, the Europeans have agreed a package of extra measures which would be slapped on Greece if it does not meet its budget goals set for 2018.

That would be the year in which the current bailout plan would expire. Athens is required by then to have controlled its budget so its deficit is no more than 3.5 percent of GDP.

That goal has been deemed as unrealistic over the long term by the IMF. [AFP]

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