EU, Greece to start technical loan talks Wednesday
By Jan Strupczewski and Renee Maltezou
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Warning Greece it had "no time to lose", euro zone ministers agreed technical talks between finance experts from Athens and its international creditors would start on Wednesday with the aim of unlocking further funding.
"We've talked about this long enough now," an impatient-sounding Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said after chairing Monday's meeting of euro zone colleagues, their first since Feb. 20, when they extended Greece's bailout deal to June.
"We only have four months," he said. "Let's get it done."
The new left-wing Greek government, keen to show voters it is keeping election promises to break with EU-imposed austerity, has tried patience among its EU peers by arguing over the form and venue for detailed talks required to establish its needs and whether it has met conditions the creditors have set on reforms.
In a compromise, Dijsselbloem said the negotiations among financial experts from Greece and the creditor institutions --the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund -- would start in Brussels on Wednesday, not in Athens as has been normal for EU bailout programs so far.
Those talks, however, would be "supported" by international teams working in Athens to obtain and check information.
The Greek government has insisted it will no longer deal with the "troika", as the three institutions have been called in a term that is now anathema for many Greeks who associate it with massive cuts in public spending. It has also said it will not tolerate irksome foreign inspection visits to Athens.
The Eurogroup now calls the troika "the institutions" and the talks will, formally at least, be based in Brussels. EU ministers say they do not want "semantics" to get in the way of negotiations intended to prevent Greece going bankrupt and potentially being forced to abandon the single currency. Continued...