Greece prepares reform bill, lenders seek concessions

Wed Apr 29, 2015 11:56am EDT
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By Renee Maltezou and Jan Strupczewski

ATHENS/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone officials sought to wring policy concessions from Greece on Wednesday to unlock urgently needed aid after Athens said it would present a list of reforms for legislation to show it is serious about implementing its promises.

The draft bill was not expected to include major novelties beyond measures already discussed with EU and IMF lenders, but Athens is hoping it will speed up slow-moving talks and permit at least an initial deal to ease its searing cash crunch.

The reforms, including some privatizations and tax steps, were to be outlined to senior euro zone finance ministry officials in Brussels on Wednesday. They will be assessed in more detail when technical-level teams from Greece and the lenders meet on Thursday, Greek government officials said.

Despite lenders' scepticism, Greece's government is hoping an interim deal can be struck before a May 12 payment of 750 million euros to the IMF that Greek officials have suggested could be difficult to make without more aid.

However, a senior euro zone official involved in the talks said that to secure any deal, Greece would have to make a substantial concession on at least one of three disputed issues - pensions, labor market reform and taxation.

"We need to see a very significant policy move on the Greek side this week to recreate confidence the process," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It could be pensions, it could be the labor market but ... they have to pay the political cost. The Eurogroup wants to see that political cost being paid."

The lenders have said a partial disbursement of frozen aid is not possible until Greece has presented and implemented a full list of reforms. Athens is hoping an initial deal will prompt the European Central Bank to loosen restrictions that prevent Greek banks from buying more Treasury bills.   Continued...

Greek national flags are on display at a shop in central Athens April 17, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis