Eurozone finance ministers, meeting Thursday todiscuss the thorny issue for a fifth week in a row, were this time
expected to give the final go-ahead to a long-awaited bailout trancheto Greece, dpa reported.
'We will today - as I see it, sense it, feel it and want it - takea final decision in the matter of Greece,' the president of theEurogroup panel, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, toldreporters in Brussels ahead of the talks.
'It's been quite an odyssey,' EU Economy Commissioner Olli Rehnadded. 'I'm confident that we will find a decision today. We canagree on a way forward concerning the next disbursement for Greece... (It) will remove the doubts that are hanging over Greece.'The eurozone's bailout fund is expected to disburse 34.4 billion
euros (44.8 billion dollars) this month, followed by another 9.3billion euros in three installments during the first quarter of 2013.The money will help keep Greece afloat while it works to get ahandle on its financial woes, including its ballooning debt.At the behest of its international creditors, Athens has carriedout a debt buy-back programme that saw it accept tenders worth 31.9billion euros over the last few days.Greece's creditors - the European Commission, the European CentralBank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - had hoped that the scheme would reduce national debt by 11 per cent of gross domesticproduct (GDP), or about 20 billion euros.
EU officials have declined to comment on reports that the schemehas not shrunk the debt mountain enough, or that Greece will need toborrow more money than expected for the operation.When asked about the latter, Luxembourg Finance Minister LucFrieden said he thought eurozone finance ministers had found during a
recent conference call 'the appropriate mechanisms' to address theissue.
'This debt buy-back has had its effect,' French Finance MinisterPierre Moscovici added Thursday.
'I am going into today's meeting with a lot of confidence ...I think we can and we will take the right decision, meaning todisburse,' he said.
The ministers have promised to consider further debt-reducingmeasures for Greece - such as relief on its interest rates - if thebuy-back programme were to have 'a positive outcome.'The IMF had also made the debt buy-back a condition for any moreaid to flow from its end for the cash-strapped country.
This latest bailout tranche should have originally been disbursedin June, but was delayed as the Greek government raced to meetausterity and reform conditions demanded by its creditors.In early November, it managed to narrowly pass a new package ofsalary decreases, pension cuts and tax hikes totaling 13.5 billioneuros. The move brought tens of thousands of demonstrators into thestreets.