Europe News

Greece says bailout review must be concluded immediately

Christian Hartmann | Reuters

Greece's bailout review must be concluded immediately, the prime minister's office said on Monday, as talks on its fiscal progress resumed amid tensions after the leak of a transcript in which IMF officials apparently mooted tactics to get a deal.

Holding a fragile parliamentary majority, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hopes to wrap up the review, which will unlock an estimated 5 billion euros in bailout funds and pave the way for talks on debt relief, to convince Greeks that their sacrifices are paying off after six years of austerity.

The five billion euros is needed to repay loans from the International Monetary Fund and maturing bonds to the European Central Bank, as well as unpaid domestic bills.

Greece signed up to a bailout worth up to 86 billion euros in 2015, its third international financial lifeline since 2010, which yanked the country from the brink of leaving the euro zone. So far it has received 21.4 billion euros of an initial 26 billion euro tranche of aid.

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The review has been adjourned twice since February mainly due to a rift among the lenders over the estimated size of Greece's fiscal gap by 2018, and disagreements with Athens on pension reforms and the management of bad loans.

"The negotiation must be concluded immediately, without unrealistic demands for additional measures beyond those set out in the July bailout agreement," Tsipras' office said.

The comment came after Internet site WikiLeaks published on Saturday what it said was the transcript of a March 19 conference call of three senior IMF officials. In it, they discuss tactics to apply pressure on Greece, Germany and the EU to reach a deal in April.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde denied on Sunday that IMF staff would push Greece closer to default as a negotiating maneuver on a new Greek bailout deal saying any such speculation was "simply nonsense".

Tsipras office responded: "It is indeed nonsense, which we should prevent."

The IMF is expected to decide whether to co-finance Greece's third bailout after the review and in light of how much debt relief Greece receives.

A spokesman for Germany's finance ministry said on Monday the review was still expected to be wrapped up in late April or early May but a debt haircut was not up for discussion.

"A debt haircut is not up for debate at the moment," Martin Jaeger told a regular government news conference.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was scheduled to meet inspectors from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Stability Mechanism and the International Monetary Fund in a central Athens hotel on Monday.

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