NEWS

Greek bailout deal possible by end April, Tusk says

A deal on Greeces bailout is possible before the end of April, EU Council President Donald Tusk said Tuesday as Athens continued tough talks with its creditors on a disputed list of reforms.

Tusk said the negotiations were “complex,” and while nothing was expected before Easter, a late April deadline agreed between Greece and its EU-IMF creditors was still within reach.

“I hope we will reach an agreement by the end of April, for me it is possible,” Tusk said during a visit to Madrid.

Experts from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union are scrutinising a list of economic reforms proposed by Athens in a bid to unlock another 7.2 billion euros ($7.8 billion) in loans to stave off possible bankruptcy and a euro exit.

Greece says the reforms would help raise an extra three billion euros for government coffers without resorting to wage and pension cuts.

“The process of assessment of this plan is very complex and I don’t foresee any breakthrough before Easter,” Tusk said.

Catholic Easter this year falls on Sunday, April 5. Orthodox Easter, traditionally a slow period in Greece, is a week later.

Greeces hard-left government has already been sharply pressed to meet its monthly payments in salaries, pensions and debt servicing without the bailout funds.

But Tusk on Tuesday claimed that Athens could hold its own for the time being.

“I think that today we can say that the (economic) situation in Greece is under control,” he said.

Athens has proposed to levy higher taxes on the rich, as well as measures to tackle tax evasion and illegal fuel and cigarette smuggling.

But its creditors are still pushing for pension cuts and civil service layoffs, as well as a number of key privatisations that the government in January said it would block.

Brussels and Athens on Tuesday said enough palpable progress had been made for senior eurozone finance ministry officials to “take stock” of the situation in a conference call on Wednesday.

“The euro working group on Wednesday will take stock of the current situation. I think the talks between the Greek government and institutions will continue after the call,” a eurozone source told AFP.

Greeces Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said earlier that Athens was hoping for a deal this week.

“We are heading towards an agreement with our partners tomorrow (Wednesday) or the day after (Thursday),” Mardas told Greek television channel Skai.

In April, Athens needs to roll over 2.4 billion euros in short-term debt and repay another 820 million euros, including 460 million euros to the IMF.

A defiant Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told lawmakers late on Monday he wanted a deal but would not submit to creditors unconditionally.

“Our priority is to reinforce the real economy with investments that will strengthen growth, with public sector participation,” he said.

Tsipras swept to power after January elections on a pledge to end the austerity measures imposed as part of a massive bailout by Greeces creditors, which Athens blames for hammering the economy.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a conservative critical of radical Tsipras’s promises, reiterated hope that the negotiations on a new debt deal would be successful and that Greece would remain in the eurozone.

Greece “must understand that for the European Union it is very important that the message that is sent is that the rules of the game must be respected,” said Rajoy, who has been accused by Athens of taking a hard line on indebted Greece. [Reuters]