Rehn expects positive statement on Greece at Eurogroup meeting

Euro-zone finance ministers meeting today are likely to make a positive statement on Greece?s progress toward meeting austerity targets needed to free the nation?s next bailout payment, European Union Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn said.

?It?s important that this can be concluded in the coming weeks,? Rehn said in an interview in Helsinki on Oct. 6. ?Negotiations have progressed well in the past few days and last night. This is why I assume and expect the euro-group to give a positive and supportive statement on Greece?s progress.?

Negotiations between the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Greece?s official lenders stalled amid Greek reluctance to sign off on more pension and wage cuts as the nation suffers a fifth year of recession. Greece needs to find spending cuts to maintain access to 240 billion euros ($313 billion) in rescue funds and is trying to reach an agreement with its official lenders to release the next payment of 31 billion euros. The funds would primarily be used to recapitalize Greek banks and boost liquidity in the cash-starved economy.

?It will take some time before the report can be finalized as it takes more work than simply an agreement over the measures Greece commits to to balance its budget and carry out structural reforms,? Rehn said.

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters in Athens this weekend that his government made progress on talks with the European Union and International Monetary Fund on a 13.5 billion-euro package of austerity measures for the next two years. Talks will continue this week, he said on Oct. 6.

Greece?s statistical service said last week that the economy shrank 7.1 percent last year, more than the 6.9 percent previously thought.

Two bailouts and the biggest debt write-off in history have so far failed to halt Greece?s recessionary slide, prompting Christine Lagarde, the IMF?s managing director, to signal last month that another writedown might need to be considered. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit Athens tomorrow.

?The deadlines are already past, around the time of the Greek elections and it?s important that this be concluded in the coming weeks,? Rehn said.


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