Greece: current phase of reform talks wrap up in Brussels

AP News
Posted: Mar 31, 2015 11:29 AM
Greece: current phase of reform talks wrap up in Brussels

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Talks between Greece and its creditors have wrapped up for now without a deal to unlock remaining Greek bailout funds urgently needed to stave off a potential default.

A Greek government official said Tuesday that the current phase of talks held in Brussels between Greece and its creditors at the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Commission had ended the previous evening.

The two sides have been discussing a list of reforms Athens says will generate more than 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in revenues.

The Greek government is hoping the proposals on such things as tax evasion and dealing with corruption will be deemed credible enough by lenders to release the remaining funds — more than 7 billion euros — in Greece's international bailout.

Without the money, Greece will be unable to meet upcoming financial commitments, a prospect that would once again trigger talk of a Greek bankruptcy and exit — or Grexit — from the euro.

Negotiations have been fraught ever since Greece's new government was elected in January on promises to scrap the austerity measures imposed in return for Greece's two bailouts worth a total of 240 billion euros.

Athens has relied on bailout funds for nearly five years. In return, successive Greek governments have had to impose tough austerity measures, such as big cuts to spending and pensions.

The Greek government sent its list of reforms to Brussels last Friday, saying the measures were both detailed and budgeted. The government has not, however, made any details public.

The list was discussed over the weekend in Brussels, but so far, the country's lenders don't seem particularly impressed.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said "a start has been made" with the talks in Brussels but that "time is pressing."

Germany is the single largest contributor to the Greek bailout, and has been one of the most outspoken critics of the country's handling of its financial crisis.

Merkel, following a meeting with French President Francois Hollande, underlined the aim for Greece to fulfill its existing obligations "with variations from a new government."

Hollande echoed Merkel's sentiment.

"Too much time has already been wasted," he said.

The last bailout installment, worth more than 7 billion euros, has been delayed since late last year until the new government comes up with a list of reforms acceptable to its creditors.

In Athens, the government official said talks in Brussels had been conducted "in a very good climate with a mutual desire to reach an agreement." He said the two sides agreed to intensify a fact-finding mission taking place in Athens regarding the proposed reforms.

The government, he added, wanted to quickly reach an agreement based on measures that would not be recessionary and would ensure the economy can return to growth.

Technical teams of the 19-nation eurozone's finance ministries are to hold further discussions on the issue via teleconference Wednesday.


Moulson contributed from Berlin.