Greek debt talks progressing, no breakthrough yet, says Austrian FinMin

Greece’s debt talks with international creditors are making progress but have not yet produced a breakthrough, Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling said on Tuesday, adding he could not tell if a deal was in reach next week.

Athens needs fresh bailout funds as it is quickly running out of cash, but wide differences over pension and labor reforms have dogged negotiations between Greece’s leftist government and its creditors.

“From today’s perspective I cannot say at all, because we do not have any documents with final results available,” Schelling told reporters before a cabinet meeting when asked about prospects for a deal when euro zone finance ministers meet on Monday.

“Participants in the Euro Working Group tell us the atmosphere in talks is good, that there are some positions where Greece has changed its position in favor of what we always discussed, but on some subjects it (needs to move more). I assume intensive negotiations will continue over the weekend.”

The Euro Working Group prepares meetings of the Eurogroup club of euro zone finance ministers.

Schelling, a conservative who like Germany has taken a hard line on Greece, said the climate at talks had improved since Athens changed its negotiating team.

“The (Greek) government staff in the Euro Working Group are again those who were there at the very start. I think three others were there in the meantime. The climate seems to have improved,” Schelling said.

“I don’t see a breakthrough, but there seems to be movement.”

He said the last Eurogroup meeting in Riga helped drive home the message to Greece that time was running out to reach an accord.

“We expect an interim report at the level of the Eurogroup next week and then further decisions will be made, but in any event there seems to be movement.”


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