The Latest: Eurozone and Greece fail to agree bailout deal
BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on European Union finance ministers’ meeting on Greek debt (all times local):
The eurozone’s top official says an agreement to give Greece the next batch of bailout cash it needs before a summer repayment bump has not been reached, but that it’s close.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem said at the conclusion of a meeting of the single currency bloc’s 19 finance ministers that Greece has made “huge progress” on implementing the policy package required of it in return for the money it needs to avoid going bankrupt. He said Monday that Greece still has a few actions to undertake while the institutions overseeing the country’s bailout still have to make some checks.
He also said an agreement on Greek debt relief measures was not possible and that further discussions will need to take place before the next meeting of the so-called eurogroup in three weeks, by which time he hopes that the International Monetary Fund will get on board with Greece’s bailout program.
The eurozone’s top official says a decision on whether Greece has done enough to get its hands on the next batch of rescue money that it’s due from its bailout program could emerge later Monday.
However, Jeroen Dijsselbloem sought to downplay expectations that a debt relief package for the cash-strapped country is imminent.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers, Dijsselbloem said if “all goes well,” then a deal about the disbursement can be secured.
Under the terms of the Greek bailout program, the country has to enact a series of economic reforms in order to get the bailout cash. Its creditors in the eurozone also said they would offer the prospect of debt relief if the country meets its side of the bargain.
“I expect, and (am) working on a deal today but it won’t be the end deal,” Dijsselbloem said. “We’ve always said the final concrete decision on extra debt relief measures will come at the end of the program, which will be next year.”
The European Union’s top economy official says a deal to unlock further financial help and debt relief for Greece is near and may emerge at a meeting of finance ministers from the 19-country eurozone.
Pierre Moscovici said before the eurogroup meeting that a deal is “doable” and that it’s time to “open a new phase, a new page” with regard to Greece.
Moscovici said he’ll be presenting a “positive” update to finance ministers about Greece’s recent efforts to meet the terms of its international bailout. The European Commission is one of the monitors of Greece’s bailout program.
Last week, lawmakers in Athens approved another package of austerity and reform in order to get its next batch of bailout cash and a start on debt relief discussions.
The German and French finance ministers say they’re confident of an agreement to unlock further aid for Greece.
But Germany’s Wolfgang Schaeuble is sticking to his insistence that further-reaching debt relief is a matter for the future. Schaeuble and new French counterpart Bruno Le Maire were traveling together to Brussels on Monday for a gathering of eurozone counterparts following a meeting in Berlin.
On Thursday, the Greek parliament approved new creditor-demanded measures that will impose further income losses on austerity-weary Greeks.
Le Maire says it’s “important there be a solution that reassures the Greek people and of course reassures Greece’s creditors.”
Schaeuble insisted that “structural reforms are the decisive thing” to improve Greek growth. He said that “extra measures if required” would come after the bailout program expires next year.
French President Emmanuel Macron says his new administration will push for an international debt relief deal for austerity-weary Greece.
Macron’s office says that he spoke Monday with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and stressed “his determination to find an accord soon to lighten the burden of Greek debt over the long term.” The phone conversation was the first contact between the two since Macron’s election earlier this month.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, named last week, is joining EU finance ministers for talks Monday and Tuesday expected to focus on Greece’s debt problems.
Athens hopes that the ministers will agree this week on a deal on easing Greece’s debt repayment terms.
Successive Greek governments have slashed spending in return for bailout money to avoid bankruptcy.