April 18, 2016 / 1:42 PM / 2 years ago

Greek reform talks to resume, aim for swift deal: Commission

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Greece’s international lenders are resuming talks in Athens with the aim of concluding a review of Greek reforms “as soon as possible”, the European Commission said on Monday.

A Greek national flag flutters atop the Athens Acropolis hill as tourists take photos during a snowstorm February 10, 2015. REUTERS/ Alkis Konstantinidis

The review, which must be concluded before more bailout money is released, has dragged on for months partly because the International Monetary Fund and European Union cannot agree between themselves on some assumptions and scenarios of how the Greek economy might develop.

A spokeswoman for the Greek government said a preliminary deal can be reached this week before a regular meeting of euro zone finance ministers (Eurogroup) in Amsterdam on April 22, but the Commission avoided setting a clear date for an agreement.

“Following constructive talks in Washington, the mission chiefs are returning to Athens today and tomorrow. The aim of the mission remains to conclude the first review of the program as soon as possible,” a Commission spokesman told a news conference in Brussels.

EU and Greek officials clarified that talks are expected to resume on Tuesday. The IMF mission chief for Greece Delia Velculescu is expected to join the discussions on Wednesday, a Greek official said.

International lenders and the Greek authorities were in contact last week in Washington during the IMF’s meetings.

The Eurogroup meeting this week “will be an important moment to take stock of progress made,” the Commission’s spokesman said, declining to say when an agreement was likely to be reached.

Euro zone lenders and the IMF are divided on some targets set out in the latest Greek bailout, notably a primary surplus goal of 3.5 percent of GDP for 2018 and beyond. The IMF says it is unrealistic to expect Greece to keep such a surplus for decades.

“The budgetary targets fixed last summer for the period after 2018 must be respected,” the Commission spokesman said.

The Greek spokeswoman said the government would submit to parliament in the coming days bills on pension and tax reform.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; additional reporting by Renee Maltezou in Athens; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Toby Chopra

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