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After charm offensive, EU pressure on Greece for reform results

25 march 2015, 12:28
0

 A charm offensive by Greece's prime minister this week calmed bruised relations with Germany, but pressure remains on Athens to deliver on promised reforms, AFP reports.

In Berlin for a second day of frank talks with German officials, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras repaired some of the damage caused by the anti-German rhetoric coming from members of his government this past month.

This included threats to seize German state property in compensation for wartime atrocities committed by Nazi troops.

With Tsipras calling for a "new political mix" on Greek reforms and an end to divisive stereotypes after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, European officials on Tuesday were hopeful that common ground could finally be reached with the two-month-old, anti-austerity Greek government.

"I am pleased that the tone in the German-Greek talks in recent days has clearly changed and clearly improved," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier Steinmeier said after meeting Tsipras and his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias.

The leader of the eurozone's finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, also said technical talks on Athens' reforms were "flowing again" after an unimpressive start, while the European parliament chairman expressed hope for a deal by the end of the week.

"In my opinion, by the end of the week we will reach a new understanding," European Parliament chief Martin Schulz said in an interview in Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.

   Detailed reforms 'by Monday' 

 Greek government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis told Mega TV on Tuesday that Athens' detailed reform proposals would be delivered "by Monday at the latest."

Greece is facing a cash squeeze caused by the non-delivery of EU-IMF loans since the radical Syriza party came to power in January promising to roll back austerity reforms.

Greece's creditors have made it clear that no funds remaining in the 240-billion-euro ($260 billion) bailout will be disbursed until Athens presents a credible reform blueprint to replace unpopular austerity measures.

Athens hopes it can also persuade the European Union's rescue fund to return 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) unduly handed back last month, a source with knowledge of the issue said Tuesday.

"Eurogroup President Dijsselbloem has asked the EFSF to provide an analysis of the matter. Also, he has asked the chairman of the Eurogroup Working Group to take the issue up at short notice," a spokesperson of the European Financial Stability Facility told AFP.  Disappointing tax receipts 

Greece's government last month was obliged to return to the EFSF 10.9 billion euros that remained unused in a rescue fund created for the recapitalisation of Greek banks.

However, the new hard-left leaders later realised that the previous conservative-socialist government had used 1.2 billion euros to support the banks from another source, the Hellenic stability fund.

  Disappointing tax receipts

 Though relatively small, the sum is currently vital to the new government.

Also on Tuesday, the finance ministry said tax takings in the first two months of the year were 972 million euros, or 13 percent, below target.

Speaking to Dutch station RTL Z, Dijsselbloem said that for the time being Greece was "still able to finance itself".

Dijsselbloem said that technical talks between Athens and its creditors were "flowing once again" but that many details remained to be worked out.

"As soon as we have an accord ... we'll be able to help with emergency loans again in the coming months," he said.

The EFSF was created in 2010 to provide financial assistance to Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

It was later replaced by the permanent European Stability Mechanism.


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