EU-IMF postpone visit to Athens in dispute over reforms

Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:18pm EST
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By John O'Donnell, Luke Baker and Harry Papachristou

BRUSSELS/ATHENS (Reuters) - Inspectors from the EU and IMF have postponed a planned visit to Greece, officials told Reuters on Friday, a move that marks a new low in relations between the parties and could delay aid payments to Athens.

The Greek government said it still expects differences with the troika to be bridged.

The decision to postpone the visit may be an attempt by the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund - together known as the 'troika' - to try to bring Athens to heel as frustration grows over Greece's failure to complete the reforms it has promised in return for aid.

It is a potential embarrassment for the Greek government, which wants to be able to show it is hitting its targets and bouncing back before it takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union for six months from the start of next year.

The troika visits Athens regularly to check on progress on its bailout commitments and take decisions on whether to release further installments of loans, with frequent standoffs over whether Greece is meeting its obligations.

The inspectors had been due to assess Greece's progress before the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers meets on December 9. That meeting will decide whether to approve the disbursement of the next tranche of aid.

"It has to be clear that there is a chance of reaching agreement with Athens about reforms before the troika goes over there," said one official.

He and a second euro zone official said the postponement could delay the approval of the next tranche, although the announcement may also spur Athens into action.   Continued...

Protesters march during a rally organised by unions from the state health sector against the government's plans for cutbacks in medical staff and hospitals in Athens November 29, 2013. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis