NEWS

Eurozone finance ministers debate into night amid doubts over disbursement, debt relief

TAGS: Economy, Diplomacy

A meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels dragged on into the night on Tuesday as they sought to resolve differences over whether Greece should receive more bailout funding and how the country’s debt should be put back on a sustainable path.

Athens was expected to receive the green light for a disbursement reaching 10.3 billion euros at the end of the Eurogroup.

However, questions remained about how this money would be transferred, with speculation that it may be split into several sub-tranches and that each disbursement would be contingent upon Greece reaching some milestones.

It emerged after the finance ministers began their meeting that there were some concerns about the multi-bill passed by Greece’s Parliament on Sunday and that Athens may have to take some corrective action through supplementary legislation on pensions and nonperforming loans.

Creditors were also said to be seeking some assurances over privatizations.

It was suggested that the lenders had some objections to the last-minute announcement made by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Sunday regarding the creation of a solidarity fund that would redistribute some of the primary surplus created last year beyond the target agreed with the institutions.

Doubts also persisted on Tuesday night about whether the eurozone would be able to resolve its differences with the International Monetary Fund over the measures needed to make Greece’s debt sustainable.

The IMF’s demands appear to be beyond what the euro area is willing to consider at the moment, putting into question whether the Fund could continue its financial involvement in the Greek program.

Ahead of the Eurogroup meeting, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he was “confident” that eurozone finance ministers would agree on the disbursement of funds but did not mention the thorny issue of Greece’s debt.

He also stressed the significance of the IMF’s participation in Greece’s third bailout even though the Fund and Berlin have conflicting opinions on how to tackle Greek debt.

“Without the IMF on board, there is no program,” Schaeuble said, adding that “we have no quarrel with the IMF.”

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem struck a similar tone, noting that, “it’s not an option to go on without the IMF.”

He also praised Greek authorities on “important work since the summer and in the past weeks” to deliver on reforms.

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