Greece delivers reforms list with eurozone future on line

GMT 12:51 2015 Tuesday ,24 February

Arab Today, arab today Greece delivers reforms list with eurozone future on line

Greece has delivered to Brussels
Brussels - AFP

Greece's eurozone future was on the line Tuesday as international creditors scrutinised a list of reforms to see if Athens has done enough to deserve an extension to its bailout programme.
The initial signs were cautiously positive after weeks of sharp exchanges between a new left-wing Greek government wanting to ditch the programme's austerity commitments and creditors reluctant to allow any change which they could end up paying for.
"I think they are very serious," Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who heads the group of his eurozone counterparts, said of the Greek list.
"It is not going to be easy. This is just a first step," Dijsselbloem told lawmakers at the European Parliament when asked about the four-month extension agreed Friday by eurozone finance ministers.
A European Commission source said "the list is sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the review" of the bailout and Greece's commitments.
The measures will be examined first by the "troika" of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which now hold most of Greece's enormous 320-billion-euro ($360-billion) debt mountain.
If approved by what Athens now insists be called the three "institutions" -- not the hated troika that oversaw its previous bailouts since 2010 -- the reform list will then be discussed in a conference call among the eurozone's 19 finance ministers later Tuesday, Dijsselbloem said.
The Athens stockmarket soared 7.0 percent on the news in another volatile trading day as investors bet that Greece would win approval.
- Time presses -
Dijsselbloem said Athens emailed him the list just 45 minutes before the Monday midnight deadline set by Greece's creditors.
Time is pressing as the current bailout programme expires Saturday and several European parliaments, including that of sceptical ecomomic powerhouse Germany, need to approve any extension.
If there is no agreement, the Greek government risks running out of money with the banking system bled dry, leading to a chaotic exit from the eurozone.
Analysts say that outcome is less likely now than at the height of the debt crisis in 2010-12 when Greece had to be bailed out twice. However, failure to strike a deal would risk serious uncertainty at a time when the EU economy is struggling for growth.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said Monday that Athens was at "a very exciting moment because we are getting to be the co-authors of our fate.
"I can assure you that people on the street are elated by this return to dignity of a people, the Greek people, who for five years have been treated as a debt colony," Varoufakis said
A Greek government source said the measures included free electricity for 300,000 poor families, free access to health care, food and public transport coupons and aid for those on low pensions.
Germany has led the opposition to any such changes, insisting Greece stick to its austerity commitments and that only fiscal discipline can deliver sustainable growth.
Tsipras argues in turn that austerity has wrecked the economy which has shrunk by an unprecedented 25 percent in the last six years.
Berlin fears that any slippage might prompt other eurozone countries to go easy on the tough austerity measures that Chancellor Angela Merkel sees as vital to preventing a return of the debt crisis.
Friday's compromise agreement effectively allowed Greece to change the balance of the programme but the overall impact on the economy and government finances would have to remain the same.
"The fundamentals -- namely assistance in exchange for reform -- must remain the same," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the Bild daily on Monday.
"Of course there will be measures that fit with the philosophy of Syriza... but they also have to take account of budgetary balance and the need to repay debts," EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told France 2.


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