NEWS

EU officials head for Athens as Greece prepares to open books

A team from Greece’s international creditors is heading for Athens, as the government prepares to open up its accounts for inspection.

Officials from the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund are due to begin talks in Brussels on Wednesday with technical discussions starting in Athens a day later, according to two troika officials, who asked not to be named because the schedule hasn’t been announced.

The start of talks may boost relations between the Greeks and their creditors after last-minute confusion on Tuesday over when the meetings would begin.

“We can only start discussions when people are welcome in Athens — if that remains an issue, the process won’t start and the clock continues to tick,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who leads the group of euro-area economy chiefs, told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday. “I told the Greek minister it will have to start tomorrow, otherwise even I will lose credibility.”

European finance ministers spent Monday and Tuesday heaping pressure on Greece to open its books and follow through with pledges agreed to in its rescue package. Another official from the currency bloc, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that Greece’s funding might last for one, two or three weeks. Without getting access to the books, it’s impossible to know for sure, the official added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Dijsselbloem had complained about the pace at which the Greek government has worked since agreeing on an extension of its bailout agreement two weeks ago.

“Not so much has happened, so the question arises: how serious are they?” he said.

Greece must work with the commission, the ECB and the IMF in order to fulfill the terms of its bailout before it will receive an outstanding loan tranche of about 7 billion euros ($7.5 billion), German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters at the end of Tuesday’s talks.

“Only when that condition is met is there a possibility to disburse the outstanding payments in the program,” he said. “It was the joint opinion of everybody that time is finite.” [Bloomberg]