Wednesday, 26 April, 2017

Greece says a deal on unfreezing the bailout is close

Greek pensioners take part in a demonstration against planned pension cuts in Athens Greece Greek pensioners take part in a demonstration against planned pension cuts in Athens Greece
Christy Curtis | 19 April, 2017, 01:28

Greece and its global lenders agreed on Friday on the key elements of reforms to unlock new funds and experts will now put finishing touches on the deal, the chairman of the euro zone finance ministers said.

A "policy" agreement is expected to be announced on Friday afternoon following the Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Malta, sources close to the talks said.

Eurozone chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said before the meeting in Valletta, Malta, that "the good thing is that we have achieved results" over the past days in talks between Greece and its creditors.

The deal is needed in order to stop the country from defaulting on its creditors this summer when Athens owes about 7 billion euros in debt repayments.

The European Commission believes a deal on the Greek bailout is possible in the coming weeks, the economics commissioner told EU lawmakers on Tuesday, adding that a failure to reach an agreement quickly could pose risks.

Disagreements have focused on debt relief and budget targets for the austerity-hit country.

The criticism of his controversial remarks, which he said were not meant to offend anybody, followed a defeat of Mr Dijsselbloem's centre-left party in the March general elections in the Netherlands, which may force him out from his post as Dutch finance minister.

"We will be ready for all the pieces of the puzzle to fit in for the discussion on debt", said Tsakalotos, for whom debt relief is a key demand. The broad outlines of today's agreement involve Athens making further economic reform commitments until 2020. The deal is vital to unlocking new loans from the €86 billion bailout program. But the talks have dragged on for months, freezing the latest loan payout and hurting chances of a Greek economic recovery after years of recession and turmoil. It all depends on how quickly Greece legislates the new reform package.

Among the measures reportedly demanded by the creditors are additional pension cuts, a reduced tax-exemption ceiling, and further deregulation of the energy and labour markets.

Greece is on its third bailout from eurozone governments but to get money it has to pass regular reviews of reforms it agreed to in return for the financing.

His leftist-led coalition has just 153 MPs in the 300-seat parliament, which would make it hard for Tsipras to push through another package of unpopular austerity measures.

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