Greece pressed to reassure IMF, EU it can meet aid conditions

Officials say nation has three days to show it can meet conditions, as pressure mounts ahead of redemption of billions of euros of bonds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 5:12am

Greece has three days to reassure Europe and the International Monetary Fund it can deliver on conditions attached to its international bailout in order to receive the next tranche of aid, four euro-zone officials said yesterday.

The lenders are unhappy with progress Greece has made towards reforming its public sector, a senior euro-zone official involved in the negotiations said, while another said they might suspend an inspection visit they resumed on Monday.

Athens, which has about €2.2 billion (HK$22 billion) of bonds to redeem in August, needs the talks to conclude successfully. If they fail, the International Monetary Fund might have to withdraw from the €240 billion bailout to avoid violating its own rules. That would heighten the risk that concerted efforts by policymakers over the past nine months to keep a lid on the euro-zone crisis could unravel, at a time when tensions are rising in other countries on the region's periphery.

Portugal's finance minister, Vitor Gaspar, the architect of its austerity drive under an EU-IMF bailout, resigned on Monday in a potential blow to his country's planned exit from the rescue programme. Political tension has also increased in Italy, where Prime Minister Enrico Letta called a government meeting after a coalition partner threatened to withdraw.

Athens and its creditors resumed talks on Monday to unlock €8.1 billion of rescue loans, after a two-week break during which the government almost collapsed over redundancies at state broadcaster ERT.

"All agreed that Greece has to deliver [pledges] before the Eurogroup on Monday. That's why they must present again on Friday," a second source said.

Euro-zone finance ministers are scheduled to meet on July 8 and discuss the situation in Greece, which is in its sixth year of recession and has seen unemployment surge.

"It is a very difficult negotiation," a senior Greek official participating in the talks said. "We're moving fast to wrap up as many issues as possible as soon as possible."

But Greece's financial overseers - the IMF, the euro zone and the European Central Bank - were unlikely to be able to conclude their review in July and might need to suspend the visit and resume it in September, a senior euro-zone official said on condition of anonymity. Representatives of the EU-IMF-ECB "troika" have been holding serial meetings with government ministers in Athens, struggling to agree on a host of outstanding issues.

If talks are not concluded by the middle of month, Athens risked missing the instalment, the Greek official added.