ATHENS — Chances are low that a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers on April 24 will produce a deal that might unblock urgently needed bailout funds for Greece, Germany said.
“We are going to Riga with very limited expectations,” said German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger. He said the meeting would likely yield an interim assessment but not a full deal on the reforms Greece is expected to make.
In return for a four-month extension of the bailout that has kept Greece afloat since 2010, Athens had pledged in February to produce a comprehensive package of reforms in order to unlock the final 7.2 billion euro installment of rescue loans. But little progress has been made, and Greece is perilously short of funds.
Exactly how short of cash the country is, however, is unclear.
On April 22, Greek Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas caused consternation by telling a morning television news program that Greece was about 350-400 million euros ($374-428 million) short of funds needed this month to pay salaries and pensions.
Less than two hours later, he told another television station that the funds had been found from social security funds and state corporations not listed on the stock exchange that would put their reserves in a Bank of Greece account.
On April 21, outraged mayors voted to defy a government decree ordering them to put their municipalities’ spare reserves in a Bank of Greece account, which would make it available to the state to borrow.
In its negotiations, the country has appeared increasingly isolated, with its creditors openly criticizing the slow pace of negotiations and expressing exasperation withGreece’s new left-wing government, which won January elections on promises of cancelling the reform conditions attached to the bailout.
Asked about the looming April 30 deadline for Greece to submit its reform list, Jaeger said that missing it “would of course be regrettable because that’s the timeframe we all pledged to abide by in the Feb. 20 declaration. But the legally relevant date is certainly June 30 of this year, because that’s the time until when we extended the current program.”
Pressed on whether he’d received any information indicating progress in Athens, Jaeger said Germany — Greece’s largest single creditor — welcomed that the talks had restarted but noted this didn’t necessarily mean a successful outcome.
“So at this stage I would simply await the report of the three institutions in Riga,” he said, referring to the creditor institutions of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission.
(ELENA BECATOROS and FRANK JORDANS)