Eurozone ministers push for Greece bailout deal

Greece's worldwide lenders are likely to agree on Friday to send teams of experts back to Athens to finalise an agreement on reforms that would unlock new lending to Greece, a euro zone official close to the talks said.

A "policy" agreement is expected to be announced on Friday afternoon following the Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Malta, sources close to the talks said.

"We have achieved results", Dijsselbloem told reporters on entering a meeting of the ministers devoted to Greece, adding however that "there will be no total political deal today".

With the main issues agreed, eurozone finance ministers gathering in Malta on Friday were set to approve the return of global creditors, including the worldwide Monetary Fund, to Athens in the coming days to settle outstanding details and draft the final agreement, according to the officials.

The measures will include pension cuts in 2019 worth 1 per cent of Greece's gross domestic product, and an increase in tax revenues in 2020 worth another 1 per cent through broadening the tax base.

The IMF has repeatedly said that Greece's debt is not sustainable and must be restructured, otherwise it will not participate in the bailout.

An agreement among eurozone ministers would go a long way towards getting the International Monetary Fund on board as a financial partner in the bailout, a major demand of Germany, Greece's biggest lender.

Greece and its creditors have reached a breakthrough in talks to secure the country's next bailout payment, sources close to the negotiations told dpa on Friday, potentially averting a fresh financial crisis in the debt-riddled nation.

The bailout talks have been delayed for months, freezing the payout of a rescue loan installment and hurting chances of a Greek economic recovery after years of recession and turmoil. In a proposed compromise discussed on Tuesday, Greece would reduce its pension outlays by 1 percent of gross domestic product in 2019 and lower its tax-free threshold in 2020 by a similar amount, according to three European Union officials with knowledge of the talks.

"But we are at a point where we think there are good prospects for successfully concluding discussions on these outstanding policy issues during the next mission to Athens", said Gerry Rice, IMF spokesperson.

The impasse has held up the latest instalment of Greece's 86-billion-euro bailout, agreed in 2015.

To receive the money, successive governments slashed incomes, hiked taxes and implemented market reforms.

"We are determined... not to let anyone play games against the Greek economy", he added.

A delegation of Greek ministers is now in Brussels for talks with representatives of the global creditors in an attempt to bridge differences over the fresh round of labor reforms, pensions and tax cuts demanded by Greece's creditors.

  • Zachary Reyes