EU min­is­ters pile on the pres­sure

Aus­tria points to Greece’s huge pri­va­ti­za­tion po­ten­tial; Dutch min­is­ter ad­mits talks in­clude re­struc­tur­ing

Kathimerini English - - Business & Finance -

Euro­pean fi­nance min­is­ters stepped up the pres­sure on Greece to sell as­sets and deepen spend­ing cuts to win an in­crease of its 110-bil­lion-euro aid pack­age and more time to re­pay the loans.

In de­lib­er­a­tions clouded by the ab­sence of In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Do­minique Strauss-Kahn, Europe’s rich coun­tries tied ex­tra money to pledges by Greece to reap more rev­enue at home and weighed whether to make bond­hold­ers share the pain.

“Greece also has a huge pri­va­ti­za­tion po­ten­tial and the Greeks should help them­selves be­fore call­ing for more money,” Aus­trian Fi­nance Min­is­ter Maria Fek­ter told re­porters be­fore a euro cri­sis meet­ing in Brus­sels yes­ter­day.

Greek bonds fell af­ter the euro area’s eco­nomic pow­er­houses put up hur­dles to an ex­panded aid pack- age, with pub­lic dis­con­tent sim­mer­ing in north­ern Europe over the costs of prop­ping up high-deficit coun­tries on the con­ti­nent’s pe­riph­ery.

Greece’s debt is ex­pected to grow and top 166 per­cent of eco­nomic out­put in 2013, as the coun­try re­mains stuck in re­ces­sion and strug­gles to get a grip on bud­get short­falls. Most in­vestors and an­a­lysts be­lieve the debt load is so big, and the econ­omy so weak, that only a re­struc­tur­ing will help it back on its feet. Yes­ter­day, for the first time, a Euro­pean fi­nance min­is­ter con­ceded that a debt re­struc­tur­ing was be­ing dis­cussed.

“Of course we dis­cuss all kinds of top­ics, in­clud­ing re­struc­tur­ing,” Dutch Fi­nance Min­is­ter Jan Kees de Jager said as he ar­rived at the meet­ing. “But in pub­lic, we are very re­luc­tant about dis­cussing and de­bat­ing re­struc­tur­ing.”

Al­though de Jager did not say whether his coun­try fa­vored a re­struc­tur­ing, his state­ment clashed with com­ments from other Euro­pean of­fi­cials, who have de­nied that a re­struc­tur­ing was even be­ing con­sid­ered as an op­tion. Sev­eral Euro­pean of­fi­cials have hinted in re­cent days that a sec­ond bailout for Greece may be nec­es­sary, but only if the gov­ern­ment is will­ing to carry out more re­forms.

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