Eurogroup approves 2-month extension for bailout plan
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.”