Eurozone asks Greece for more reforms as bailout negotiators return

Greece needs to step up its reform efforts, eurozone finance ministers said Monday, hours before negotiations are expected to resume in Athens on progress needed under its bailout.

"We stressed that more work needs to be done, more effort needs to be put in for [there] to be a good outcome," Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem told journalists in Brussels after chairing a meeting of the eurozone ministers' Eurogroup panel.

"There are still fiscal gaps to be filled, and some of the reforms will have to be deepened," he said, while acknowledging that this will not be "easy."

Greece's creditors are currently reviewing progress under the country's third, 86-billion-euro (95-billion-dollar) bailout.

Technical talks have been taking place, but negotiators from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the eurozone's bailout fund are now also expected to return this week, with some arriving as early as Tuesday.

Once completed, this review would pave the way for a highly anticipated discussion on Greek debt relief, which Dijsselbloem said should be held soon to ensure that the economic efforts in the country are "sustainable."

But Athens and the creditors first need to agree on controversial reforms, notably on pensions.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said during a visit last week to Brussels that his government wants to wrap up the review "as quickly as possible" to avoid negative political and economic consequences.

"[If] we won't get that closing of the first review ... investment won't come, growth won't be as high, we won't meet the targets, and then it will be back to square one," he told the European Parliament's economic affairs committee.

EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the outstanding issues include establishment of a new privatization fund, income tax reforms, pension reforms, creation of independent revenue agencies and the handling of non-performing loans.

A quick completion of the review is needed to ensure that Greece remains financially afloat. Athens has to meet about 2.5 billion euros in debt-service obligations between April and June, according to Klaus Regling, head of the eurozone's bailout fund.

Last update: Tue, 08/03/2016 - 00:31
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