Eurozone ministers urge Greece to deliver on reforms

GMT 18:41 2015 Monday ,05 October

Arab Today, arab today Eurozone ministers urge Greece to deliver on reforms

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Luxembourg - AFP

Eurozone finance ministers urged Greece on Monday to swiftly implement the tough reforms at the heart of its huge bailout as newly re-elected premier Alexis Tsipras presents to the Greek parliament the challenges ahead.

The single currency's 19 top financial officials met in Luxembourg for the first time since Greek voters returned anti-austerity leader Tsipras to power after snap elections on September 20.

"A lot of work has to be done, a number of reforms still have to be implemented and new reforms have to be designed," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers.

"It's in the Greek interest to deliver as quickly as possible so we can also continue on the process of bank recapitalisation and go into the debate about debt restructuring," said Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister.

Returning to the Eurogroup as Greek finance minister is the discreet Euclid Tsakalotos, who must implement the reforms agreed in July in return for a 86-billion-euro ($96-billion) rescue, the country's third in five years.

Tsipras will present dozens of measures covering all aspects of the Greek economy in Athens later on Monday in a general policy speech to the newly elected parliament.
"There is no alternative than fulfilling the commitments that have been taken with the European Union," said the European Commission's top economic official, France's Pierre Moscovici.

Greece's three-year rescue package came after six months of acrimonious negotiations with its eurozone partners that pushed Athens to the cusp of a humiliating eviction from the single currency.

"Difficult decisions lie ahead," premier Tsipras warned lawmakers from his Syriza party on Saturday, launching the crucial week that includes a confidence vote in Greek parliament on Wednesday.

On returning to office Tsipras pledged to "quickly implement" the terms of the EU bailout he initially rejected in an anti-austerity referendum in July.

His U-turn at a dramatic summit shortly after split the Syriza party and forced Tsipras to step down, but he comfortably won re-election last month with a pledge to soften the impact of the bailout.

Tsipras also promised to win debt forgiveness, which Greece's eurozone partners have accepted in principal.

- Germany patient -

The first review of whether Athens is abiding by the strict bailout programme is due later this month.

At stake for the new government will be the release of a new three-billion-euro tranche of aid, a rescue of Greek banks and the talks on slashing debt.

Several European sources told AFP that the review would be delayed, but this was not seen as an immediate issue, ministers said.

"There were just elections, the government has just been formed, it's too early to talk about being late," said Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's influential finance minister.

The bailout includes provisions deeply opposed by Greeks such as reforming state pensions, tax increases on farmers and privatisations of cherished state companies.

A European source said the recapitalisation of Greece's banks would be handled separately from the toughest part of the bailout review.

Up to 25 billion euros of Greece's bailout are earmarked for the recapitalisation of the banking sector after a weeks-long shut down at the height of Greece's debt crisis.

Of this, 10 billion euros is immediately available to be injected into the financial system once the European Central Bank has assessed the fallout of bank closures suffered by Greece at the height of the crisis this summer.

The so-called bank recap would take place in the next weeks in return for financial sector reforms that are not considered controversial, the European source said.

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