Eurogroup chief 'positive' on Greek bailout breakthrough

"I welcome the agreement in principle on Greece at the Eurogroup after several months of hard negotiations", EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said in Malta after a meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

Eurozone finance ministers swapped Brussels' brand new Europa building for old Valletta's Grand Master's Palace, but they came out on Friday (7 April) with the usual optimistic line about Greece.

"We have an agreement on the overarching elements of policy, in terms of size, timings and sequencing of reforms, and on that basis further work will continue in the coming days", Mr Dijsselbloem said.

In order to close the review, the Eurogroup will however need to agree on additional issues - Greece's fiscal targets for few first years following the end of the programme in 2018, and the sustainability of Greek debts.

Concluding negotiations would clear the way for what are expected to be thorny discussions over easing the country's debt load and for the next disbursement of bailout cash.

The positive measures in 2019 will amount to 1.8 billion euros and chiefly concern spending to alleviate child poverty, housing problems, youth employment issues and action compatible with government policies for growth, contributions to pensioners for medicines and an investment package.

The Greek economy and investors need an agreement that all the euro area can sign up to, European Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told reporters as the meeting got under way. "It is in the nature of every agreement for there to be compromises and things that will upset not generally the negotiating team but the Greek people".

Athens pledged to achieve a primary surplus of 3.5 percent of GDP in 2018 and for an unspecific number of years in the future.

Greece has depended on global bailouts since 2010 after it was unable to borrow on worldwide bond markets. While Greece doesn't face any imminent liquidity trouble, it still has to meet the debt payments in July, while the uncertainty over its bailout weighs on the country's economy.

Next up for discussion is the delicate topic of Greek debt relief-which is opposed by Germany as staunchly as it is insisted upon by Greece and the International Monetary Fund.

"We have to be skeptical of course that a reform pledge for 2019 and 2020 will actually be carried out, but it plugs a hole for now", he added.

Greece is seeking to get an agreement so its next batch of bailout funds can be released so it can make upcoming debt repayments, avoid bankruptcy and a possible exit from the single currency bloc.

  • Zachary Reyes