Eurogroup sees progress from Greece as Athens inches closer to loan disbursement

EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

President of the European Central Bank (ECB) Mario Draghi (2-L standing) tries to speak with Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (R-seated) at the start of a Eurogroup Finance Ministers' meeting at the EU Council, in Brussels, Belgium, 19 February 2018.

Eurogroup sees progress from Greece as Athens inches closer to loan disbursement


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The EU’s finance ministers concluded Monday that Greece has completed most of the required reforms set by its eurozone creditors and moved closer to receiving a new disbursement of loans, said Eurogroup President Mario Centeno.

The 19-member Eurogroup offered their praise for Greece’s progress but said Athens still had not managed to implement reforms connected to electronic foreclosures – seen as key in helping Greek lenders manage their massive stockpile of nonperforming loans, as well as new delays in the drawn-out privatisation  of Athens’ former international airport – a vast stretch of prime property that has sat abandoned since 2001.

“Of all the 110 prior actions, only two are still outstanding, those are outside the control of the government. I am confident they can be cleared up soon,” Centeno said after the Eurogroup concluded its meeting, adding, “There is a strong commitment of the Greek government to complete the program…only two outstanding prior actions are left.”

European Commissioner for European Monetary Affairs Pierre Moscovici was also supportive, saying he’s pleased with the “very significant progress” made by Greece.

Moscovici also announced that talks are to begin next week in Athens on the fourth and final review. The aim of the mission will be to agree on plans for the completion of all the benchmarks by May so the Eurogroup can decide on the next course of action by June 21.”

“Teams will also discuss the growth strategy for Greece for the coming years,” said Moscivici. “When the Greeks conclude their program in six months, they must become a normal country in terms of EU procedures and as a normal member of the eurozone.”

“I don’t anticipate the ESM disbursing in the first tranche of 5.7 billion to Greece until mid-March, partly due to the scheduling constraints of the German parliamentary committee that has to green light the disbursement,” said Klaus Regling from the European Stability Mechanism.

The inconclusive conclusion of the bailout review caused a level of visible tension to emerge between Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Mario Draghi of the ECB on e-auction procedures. According to an EU source, their tempers boiled over during a discussion about a recent Greek bond issuance, where the bond actually went up instead of dropping as expected.

“We sometimes have very animated and lively discussions in the EG, nothing special happened today,” said Centeno, while trying to downplay the incident.

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