EU financial affairs chief in Athens as bailout talks drag

AP News
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Posted: Feb 15, 2017 6:07 AM
EU financial affairs chief in Athens as bailout talks drag

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greeks "need to see a light at the end of the austerity tunnel," the European Union's financial affairs chief said Wednesday during a visit to discuss the country's slow-moving negotiations with its international bailout creditors.

Pierre Moscovici said he was "hopeful" about Greece's prospects, as he met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. He noted Greece's economy had grown modestly recently.

Tsipras' left-led government hopes to conclude much-delayed negotiations by Monday's meeting of eurozone finance ministers on spending cuts and reforms demanded by European creditors and the International Monetary Fund. Without a deal, it can't get the next batch of rescue loans.

Moscovici told Tsipras he believed efforts were required "from all sides" to reach an agreement, but that he was optimistic. The European commissioner met earlier with Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos.

An agreement between Greece and its creditors would also make the country eligible for the European Central Bank's bond-buying stimulus program. That would lower Greece's government borrowing rates and ease its way to tapping bond markets again later this year.

But Athens refuses to introduce new austerity measures, and next week's meeting of eurozone finance ministers is not expected to provide a full breakthrough in the talks.

Greece has depended on international bailouts since 2010. In return for billions of euros in rescue loans, successive governments have had to overhaul the economy, imposing repeated tax hikes and slashing spending, including salaries and pensions. The crisis has wiped more than a quarter off the Greek economy, and left unemployment hovering at 23 percent.