Troika halt talks on Greek bailout over budget hole
(Reuters) – International inspectors are set to put on hold a trip to Athens because they have been unable to bridge differences with Greece over how to close a 2 billion-euro ($2.7 billion) hole in its 2014 budget, euro zone officials said.
Athens however denied there had been any changes to the inspectors’ scheduled return early next week, and Greece’s finance minister said the officials had asked for a meeting on Tuesday.
A team of officials from the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank – known as the Troika – visits Athens regularly to check progress on its bailout commitments and decide whether to release the next tranche of loans.
“There are growing differences between Athens and the Troika,” one euro zone official said, adding that the planned trip was, for now, on ice.
“The Greeks are saying: ‘We are doing enough’, and the Troika says they need new steps to close the budget,” he said.
Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela, the European Commission’s spokesman in Athens, said: “The Troika will be in a position to resume the review mission in Athens once sufficient information has been received from the Greek authorities to permit us to hold meaningful policy discussions in person.” He said if this happened, a return in early November would be feasible.
The latest bailout inspection began in September before being paused and was initially expected to resume in end-October and then slated for resumption on November4.
“They have asked for an appointment on Tuesday. What else can I say?” Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters in Athens after meeting Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Greece has been kept afloat by a financial lifeline from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund since 2010, with 240 billion euros ($330.5 billion) of loans pledged in exchange for spending cuts and reforms.
After a six-year recession that wiped out 40 percent of household disposable incomes and sent unemployment soaring to almost 28 percent, Greeks are saying they can take no more.
The coalition government argues it deserves some slack after delivering the biggest budget deficit reduction ever recorded in the euro zone. Greece’s president said bluntly his country would not yield to pressure from foreign lenders to impose more austerity.
“No one is going because no one wants them (the Troika) there,” a second euro zone official said.