BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone finance ministers will take no decision on Monday on any extension of Greece’s bailout program, which expires at the end of the year, the bloc’s top economics official said.
The European Union is considering extending the current bailout by six months to mid-2015, a document obtained by Reuters showed last week. But Athens says it is only willing to consider extending the unpopular program by a few weeks.
“What we really want is to reach good agreements that allow Greece to cut its deficit and carry out the right reforms that will allow it to have a solid economy,” EU Commissioner for Economics and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici told reporters on Monday before a meeting of euro zone finance ministers.
“There will be no decision today on an extension of the Greek (bailout) program but I hope a few steps forward will be registered,” Moscovici said, adding he was well aware of the efforts made by Greece.
Greece’s parliament approved next year’s budget in the early hours of Monday, the plan being closest to a balanced budget Greece has produced in more than three decades.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is struggling to push through an early exit from the bailout and ensure the survival of his government after a presidential vote next year.
A row with the EU and IMF over a disputed budget shortfall next year has held up the country’s final bailout inspection and plans to exit the aid program. Greece’s lenders are demanding 1.7 billion euros (1.08 billion pounds) in additional measures to hit budget targets next year, something Athens has rejected.
The head of the Eurogroup meeting of euro zone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said he was “not confident at all” about the deadlines over the Greek issue.
“I‘m very worried about time constraints and all parties involved should try as hard as possible to go as far as possible before the year is over,” he said before a discussion on Greece scheduled for the afternoon.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Greece may need some more time before the last bailout credit tranche can be disbursed by international lenders, adding however that overall the country was on the right path.
Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Catherine Evans