Eurozone to consider Greek debt relief

Jeroen Dijsselbloem left with France's Bruno Le Maire at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels

Greece's financial woes spilled over into the German election campaign, with Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel calling on the country's creditors to get serious about debt relief.

The vote in parliament, which was met by angry protests, satisfied the conditions of Greece's bailout and opened the way for debt relief as well as fresh loans so that Athens can repay loans of 7.0 billion euros ($7.8 billion) in July.

The IMF reportedly wants a maximum debt relief commitment upfront, while others would prefer to be more precise only in 2018, a senior eurozone official told the agency Reuters, referring to the end of the third bailout in mid-2018.

The discussion therefore focuses on how to make a euro zone statement on Greek debt relief from a year ago, more detailed and more concrete.

Athens' progress may not be the first item on the eurozone finance ministers meeting agenda, but the discussion could be long, as the European Union institutions and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are seeking for a common ground on debt relief.

"Our country. has fulfilled its obligations totally and on time", Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said on Sunday ahead of the crunch talks, which begin in Brussels at 1300 GMT.

Greece's debt stands at 180 percent of annual output, a legacy of the Greek debt crisis.




Euro-area finance ministers committed last May to a set of potential measures to ease the repayment terms on Greek bailout loans after the end of the program in 2018, but the degree to which these measures will be implemented is still a subject of contention.

The discussion will be "rather hard and long", the diplomat said. It has also been a bone of contention between the International Monetary Fund and Schäuble, the eurozone's most influential official, for several months. It has agreed, albeit after months of negotiations, with the euro zone lenders and the International Monetary Fund on pensions and tax reforms.

"I really mean it, and if not, then it will be in the coming weeks", he said.

While Le Maire said it's "important there be a solution that reassures the Greek people and of course reassures Greece's creditors", Schaeuble insisted that "structural reforms are the decisive thing" to improve Greek growth.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed during a call on Wednesday that a deal was "feasible" by Monday.

The meeting will be the first for French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, named to his post last week by newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron, a pro-EU centrist. Germany and France are Greece's biggest lenders.

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