NEWS

Eurogroup to discuss extending Greek loan repayments

The extension of Greece?s emergency loan repayment period will be one of the main topics of discussion at a meeting of the Eurogroup, the 17 countries that use the euro, in Brussels on Monday.

Athens, which will be represented by Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, is hoping that its euro partners will approve a lengthening of the repayment period. It has also asked for the interest on its 110-billion-euro loan package to be reduced to ease the pressure on Greece when it has to start repaying its instalments from 2013.

The Eurogroup is also expected to discuss the strengthening of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). It will be followed by a meeting of EU economy and finance ministers (ECOFIN) on Tuesday.

Papaconstantinou goes into Monday?s meeting after insisting that Greece will not be dictated to by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund on the details of its privatization program.

In response to comments by European Commission representative Servaas Deroose, Papaconstantinou said that the government had no plans to sell off public property as a part of a scheme to raise as much as 50 billion euros to help pay off its debt.

?The government has already decided that it will use public property,? said Papaconstantinou. ?It is a decision that could play a decisive role in boosting growth and in reducing the country?s large debt.

?It is our choice to follow this policy as part of a privatization program… with absolute transparency, with respect for the environment and our cultural heritage and using the greater public interest as our only guide.?

New Democracy accused the government of entering into a public dispute with the EU-IMF team over privatization simply as a publicity stunt.

The opposition party pointed to a speech by Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou in September, in which he proposed the selling off of various public enterprises and banks.