Time-wasting warning in Greek talks

Published: Monday 9th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Greece and its creditors must “stop wasting time” and speed up talks on the reforms the country should make to get more rescue loans, the head of the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers has warned.

Greece is hoping to persuade eurozone creditors at a meeting in Brussels today that its proposed economic reforms are enough for them to start paying out rescue loans again.

The country got a four-month extension on its European bailout last month, but creditor states want to approve a detailed list of reforms before they release any money. So far, Greece has only outlined its intended reforms in broad terms.

Athens faces a cash crunch within weeks and is hoping to get some positive signals from its eurozone partners at the talks, but c hances of that appeared slim.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutchman who heads the meetings of eurozone finance ministers known as the Eurogroup, said Greece is being too slow in detailing its plans.

“We have offered to support them, but that goes hand in hand with conditions. If discussions about the conditions don’t start, then the support won’t be released,” he said as he arrived for the meeting.

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis outlined the reforms in a letter last week. Mr Dijsselbloem said the reforms would first have to be discussed on a technical level, and only then could they be discussed by all the eurozone states.

“It is taking way too long,” he said. “We have lost over two weeks in which very little progress has been made – real talks have not started yet, there has been no implementation, so we have to stop wasting time and really start talks now seriously.”

Mr Varoufakis, normally happy to speak to waiting cameras, did not make any comment as he arrived at the meeting.

Over the weekend, he said in an interview to Italy’s Corriere de la Sera newspaper that if the creditors do not eventually approve the reforms, his government could call new elections or a referendum. The government later clarified any referendum would be on the content of reforms and fiscal policy.

Among other reforms, Mr Varoufakis’s suggestions include using “non-professional inspectors” such as students, housewives and tourists to crack down on tax evasion, according to a leaked copy of the letter.

The inspectors would be hired on a short-term casual basis “to pose, after some basic training, as customers, on behalf of the tax authorities, while ‘wired’ for sound and video”, the letter says.

The country has been kept afloat since May 2010 by rescue loans from the other 18 eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.

The European part of its bailout was to have expired at the end of February, but under the extension agreement Greece has until April to set out and implement fiscal reforms that will ensure it generates more revenue than it spends.

Published: Monday 9th March 2015 by The News Editor

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