Eurogroup sets three conditions for Greece to meet

Greek political leaders said they had clinched a deal on economic reforms needed to secure a second EU bailout, but euro zone finance ministers demanded more steps and a parliamentary seal of approval before providing the aid.

The EU and the International Monetary Fund are exasperated by a string of broken promises by Athens and weeks of disagreement over the terms of a 130 billion euro ($172 billion) bailout, with time running out to avoid a default.

Finance ministers of the 17-nation euro zone meeting in Brussels warned there would be no immediate approval for the rescue package and said Athens must prove itself first.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the Eurogroup, set three conditions, saying the Greek parliament must ratify the package when it meets on Sunday and a further 325 million euros of spending reductions needed to be identified by next Wednesday, after which euro zone finance ministers would meet again.

“Thirdly, we would need to obtain strong political assurances from the leaders of the coalition parties on the implementation of the programme,» Juncker told a news conference after six hours of talks in Brussels. «Those elements needs to be in place before we can take decisions.”

“In short, no disbursement before implementation.”

Facing elections as soon as April, Greece’s party leaders have been loath to accept the lenders’ tough conditions, which are certain to be unpopular with increasingly angry voters.

The Greek government called on the coalition parties to support the deal when it comes to parliament, saying the Brussels meeting showed they were only half way there.

“The first step is for parliament to approve it, showing political parties’ commitment to the targets and the policies of the new economic programme. It’s time all of us to assume their responsibilities. We need action, not words,» government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said in a statement.

The euro rose on news of a deal, which appeared to remove – at least for now – the risk of a hard default by the euro zone’s most indebted country, which faces a major bond redemption on March 20. The risk premium investors charge for holding Italian and Spanish bonds fell.

However, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said talks would continue to finalise details, making clear no agreement had been concluded yet. He said managing director Christine Lagarde wanted assurances Greece would stick to the agreed policies whatever the outcome of looming elections.

Venizelos said Athens also had an outline deal with private creditors on a bond swap in which they would give up some 70 percent of the value of their Greek bond holdings, reducing Athens’ 350 billion-euro debt pile by about 100 billion euros.

“The draft agreement on private sector involvement to decrease the Greek debt burden is practically finalised, even if it will be formally approved as part of the overall package, I trust next week,» EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters.