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Greece needs to get back to work on bailout reforms, eurozone ministers say

TAGS: Economy, Politics, Diplomacy

Eurozone finance ministers pushed Greece on Friday to get back to work and speed up a reform drive it agreed to in a bailout package before getting a new tranche of money.

Under a deal signed last year with eurozone countries, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Greece can receive financial assistance of up to 86 billion euros by 2018 in return for agreed reforms.

The Eurogroup, comprising eurozone finance ministers, had approved a tranche of 10.3 billion euros for Greece in May from the overall package. An initial 7.5 billion euros of that sum had been transferred to Athens with the rest available to Greece until the end of October if it meets some conditions.

Ministers at an informal summit in Bratislava on Friday expressed concern that the country, which was due to update the group, was falling behind schedule in its efforts.

"I'm not feeling very good about Greece, agreements are there to be implemented," Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling told reporters ahead of the meeting.

Schelling joined others in saying the aid release would be linked to meeting agreed conditions and pushing Greece to move faster. The head of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said a lot of time had already been lost.

"The pressure is back on, it really needs progress," he said. "The summer is over. Pack up the camping gear, get back to work."

Greece is due to fulfil 15 reforms, including privatization plans and energy sector changes, in September to get the final 2.8 billion euros available in this tranche.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Greece still could complete its work.

"Today is September 9, so there is still time for Greece," he told reporters. "It's not new that, with Greece, we see the implementation of the measures that have been agreed towards the final phase of the agreed time frame."

With the highest debt to GDP ratio in the eurozone at more than 175 percent of national output, and after three international bailouts, Athens is hoping its official lenders will specify debt relief measures by the end of this year.

It is also hoping to get back to borrowing markets and, according to sources, may sell one or two small bonds following the inclusion of its debt in the European Central Bank's quantitative easing program.

[Reuters]

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