Eurogroup ap­proves 2-month ex­ten­sion for bailout plan

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Eu­ro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters agreed to grant Greece a two-month ex­ten­sion of its bailout pro­gramme Eurogroup pres­i­dent Jeroen Di­js­sel­bloem said in Brussels on Mon­day.

The EU had con­sid­ered ex­tend­ing the cur­rent bailout by six months to mid-2015, but the frag­ile coali­tion gov­ern­ment in Athens had said it wanted to ex­tend the pro­gramme of un­pop­u­lar aus­ter­ity mea­sures by only a few weeks, with Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras an­nounc­ing a cru­cial pres­i­den­tial elec­tion next week, six months ahead of plan.

“We need an ex­ten­sion,” Di­js­sel­bloem said after the Eu­ro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters dis­cussed the bailout plan, point­ing out that it would not be pos­si­ble to con­clude a re­view of the pro­gramme be­fore the end of the year.

“Let’s do this as quickly as we can, and in our mind that is two months,” he added. “This is long enough to com­plete the re­view and not too long to leave ques­tions open for the fu­ture.”

The Greek par­lia­ment ap­proved next year’s bud­get early on Mon­day with a plan that is the clos­est to a bal­anced bud­get Greece has ever pro­duced.

A row with the EU and IMF over a dis­puted bud­get short­fall for next year held up the fi­nal bailout in­spec­tion and plans to exit the aid pro­gramme with the Troika of in­ter­na­tional lenders de­mand­ing 1.7 bln euros more in cuts and aus­ter­ity mea­sures, a plan which the Prime Min­is­ter has re­jected.

EU Eco­nomics Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Pierre Moscovici said in­spec­tors would be back in Athens this week to con­clude the re­view.

Ger­man Fi­nance Min­is­ter Wolf­gang Schaeu­ble said on Mon­day that Greece may need some more time be­fore the last bailout tranche of the 240 bln euro bailout can be dis­bursed by the Troika, adding how­ever that over­all the coun­try was on the right path.

“We ex­pect the troika to re­turn, I be­lieve that they will re­turn,” Evan­ge­los Venizelos told of­fi­cials from his So­cial­ist PA­SOK party. “And we can reach a tech­ni­cal agree­ment ... be­fore Christ­mas, and to be more spe­cific, be­fore the sched­uled tele­con­fer­ence of De­cem­ber 15.”

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