The European Commission said yesterday it hopes Greece and its international creditors will reach within days an agreement on extra measures Athens must take to get its next tranche of bailout funds.
Officials from the EU, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank were working with Greece and making progress, a spokesman for European Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said.
“What we hope for is a staff level agreement in the next few days ... we are getting close,” the spokesman said, adding when asked if eurozone finance ministers were ready to meet on the issue, that there were no such plans.
Talks have been underway for months between the EU-IMF-ECB troika and Greece on the new austerity measures worth €13.5bn that Athens must accept in return for some €31.5bn in aid funds.
Once the EU-IMF-ECB troika officials reach a technical accord with Athens, the deal must then go to their respective leaders for final approval of the terms and clearance of the funds.
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said at the weekend that Athens would redouble its efforts to reach a deal after the government warned it could run out of money by next month.
“We have completed 90% of the road ... we have almost reached the end and now we have to give answers to the subjects that are still outstanding.
“It would be a waste of all this national effort if we don’t succeed,” Stournaras said.
Meanwhile, Cyprus officials said the country planned to contact the international lenders to invite them to the island for final talks on a comprehensive aid package for the Greece-exposed island.
While it was unclear when the EU-IMF-ECB troika would arrive in Cyprus, authorities have said they want a deal with lenders by the Eurogroup meeting on November 12.“In a short while, we will send the troika the complete proposals of the government and invite it to Cyprus to negotiate the support package to the Republic of Cyprus,” government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou told reporters last night.
Cyprus, one of the smallest economies in the eurozone, followed Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain in seeking aid from its EU partners in June because of exposure of its financial system to debt-crippled Greece.
Lenders have demanded salary cuts in a public service workforce which is one of the highest paid in the eurozone, pension reform, privatisations and the creation of a “bad bank” which will assume problem debt in the financial system.
Cyprus’s leftist government says it will resist calls for privatisations, and is proposing staggered pay cuts ranging from 6.5 to 12.5% in its public sector.
“The package will bear a cost,” Stefanou said. “Our attempt is to make it tolerable, and with the contribution of all to overcome the difficulties we are experiencing now.”