ECONOMY

EU keeps denying debt talk

No meeting took place among top European Union policy makers last week to discuss the restructuring of Greece’s debt, the European Commission said on Monday after Germany admitted to the possibility that Athens might need more help.

“There was no meeting on debt restructuring on Greece. [Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli] Rehn participates in a number of meetings involving issues of financial stability in Greece and in other countries,» said a spokesman for Rehn when asked about a press report saying that Rehn, the French finance minister and others recently held a conference call to discuss such a possibility.

Brussels?s latest denial of talk on throwing Athens another lifeline after last year?s 110-billion-euro rescue package from the EU and the International Monetary Fund is likely to do little to quash speculation of a debt restructuring.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Saturday that loan relief granted to Greece recently may be inadequate to restore the country?s financial health.

Euro-area leaders decided earlier in the month to cut the average rate on loans to Greece by 1 percentage point, to around 3.5 percent, and to lengthen the maturities to seven-and-a-half years from three.

?Whether that is enough and how this continues will have to be monitored closely,? Schaeuble said.

The doubts about Greece?s finances emerged as EU officials said a planned aid package for Portugal would draw a line under the region?s debt crisis, which was triggered by Greece and engulfed Ireland four months ago, when the latter received an 85-billion-euro rescue. The funds for Portugal are projected by the EU to total around 80 billion euros.

?We do exclude restructuring [for Greece],? according to Rehn. ?We have a solid plan and we are working on the basis of that plan. And it is based on very careful analysis of debt sustainability.?

Appearing with Rehn, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet stressed the importance of the Greek austerity plan. In February, Trichet said ?that program does not comprehend? the concept of losses for bondholders.