More pressure over loans

Greece played down an apparent delay yesterday in its eurozone partners releasing their share of an emergency loan tranche, but it seems there is growing political pressure from other European countries for Athens to take further action to meet the fiscal targets that it has been set as part of its 110-billion-euro bailout. It emerged yesterday that the Greek government would not receive until January the eurozone’s 6.5-billion-euro share of the 9 billion euros it appeared to have been expecting this month. The news came after Austria suggested that it was unhappy that Greece would miss its deficit target for this year and was considering withholding its share of the loan tranche. However, government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis denied the delay was due to any qualms from its eurozone partners and insisted «it had been agreed upon some time ago» that the Europeans would pay their share of the loan installment after the International Monetary Fund. This was put down to the fact that EU and IMF officials had to postpone their check on Greece’s progress due to the local elections and were not in any position to deliver a report to the Eurogroup this week. Instead, they will deliver their findings at next month’s meeting, paving the way for the release of the money. EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn confirmed there were no problems. «It has always been the case that the actual decision to release the third tranche should be taken in December and that the release will be in January,» his office said yesterday. Nevertheless, sources in Brussels said that Austria’s tough stance coupled with concern that the Greek government is not moving fast enough with some structural reforms means that there is a reluctance among eurozone members to allow Athens much leeway in meeting the deficit and debt reduction targets it has been set, especially given the growing concerns that Ireland might also need a bailout. Petalotis, meanwhile, stressed that relations between Greece and Germany remain good despite Prime Minister George Papandreou objecting to Berlin’s proposals for a mechanism that would force governments to default on part of their debt. «The prime minister made an observation… this is not a Greek-German war,» said Petalotis.