Derlict building adorned with graffiti and slogans reading 'Euro' in central Athens
Brussels - AFP
Greece and its international creditors will meet Saturday in Paris to discuss Athens' massive debt bailout programme and reforms it must adopt in exchange for urgently needed funds, sources said.
Progress in the talks has so far proved elusive while Athens is running out of money to pay its creditors, raising the risk of a default and a potentially chaotic exit from the single currency bloc.
"The Brussels group is meeting this weekend as of tomorrow afternoon," European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told a press conference Friday.
The Brussels group is made up of Greece, the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, plus the European Stability Mechanism, which issues bonds or other debt instruments on the financial markets to raise capital to aid member states.
The meeting will be held in Paris, not in Brussels as previously planned, for "logistical reasons", a European source told AFP, adding that it is "expected to last more than a day".
"We are trying to keep the process moving," the source said.
"The problem is not that there is not enough dialogue, but that there is not enough technical work. The process lacks numbers, detailed tables," she said, adding that discussion are still "far from talking about a bailout".
The talks come ahead of an informal April 24 meeting in the Latvian capital Riga where the finance ministers of the 19-country eurozone will have the opportunity "to take stock of progress", Andreeva said.
EU officials said Thursday there needed to be more progress ahead of Riga.
Greece wants the last tranche of its bailout funding worth 7.2 billion euros ($7.8 billion) to keep afloat and repay its debts to the IMF and European Central Bank, but has balked at tough reform conditions demanded by its creditors.
"The centre of attention today will of course first of all be in Washington," Andreeva said.
Pierre Moscovici, the EU economic affairs commissioner and Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission vice-president for the euro, are in the US capital for the spring meetings of the World Bank and IMF.
Also present in Washington is Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who insisted Thursday on his government's determination to carry out reforms demanded in return for the funds.
Elected in January in a backlash against the bailout programme, the hard left government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants the IMF, EU and ECB to ease the austerity measures demanded of Greece in return for bailout funding so as to put the focus on growth, not public finances.
A February eurozone accord extending the bailout by four months allowed Athens to change the reform agenda, but only on the basis that any changes would be neutral overall in fiscal terms.
The three creditors will only free up the last bailout funding tranche of 7.2 billion euros when there is an agreement with Greece on the new reforms.