NEWS

Greece on the agenda in Brussels

Greece?s debt crisis and the government?s stalling efforts to push through austerity reforms to get to the economy back on track are to top the agenda at an emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels on Monday, called by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Sunday, along with growing concerns about the precarious state of Italy?s finances.

Rompuy called for the meeting ahead of a scheduled Eurogroup summit, due to begin on Monday afternoon, which is to focus on plans to draft a second rescue package for Greece.

According to sources, the morning meeting will focus on Greece?s problems but is also expected to touch on growing concerns about market pressure on Italy.

The EC president has reportedly invited European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn to attend the precursor meeting.

Dow Jones quoted a senior eurozone official as saying that delays in Greek reforms were a key concern. ?There are various concerns and worries about the progress of the second bailout package [for Greece], mostly because of little progress in the private-sector involvement,? the official was quoted as saying.

Delays in Greece?s implementation of reforms were also mentioned Friday by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, one of Greece?s three foreign creditors.

After the IMF approved the release of its part of a fifth tranche of emergency aid, Lagarde said that Greek reforms were progressing but not fast enough. ?The program is delivering important results… however, with many important structural reforms still to be implemented, significant policy challenges remain,? she said.

As Greece?s creditors push for reforms, pressure is building on the domestic front too with a recent opinion poll showing the main opposition New Democracy leading ruling PASOK by 1.3 percent.

In the poll, conducted by Kapa Research, 17.8 percent of respondents said they would vote for ND in the event of elections, with 16.5 percent backing PASOK and 35.2 percent saying they were undecided. Seven out of 10 said they favored snap polls.