Greece closes in on deal with troika
Greece and its international lenders have agreed on most austerity cuts and reforms needed to unlock fresh aid for the near-bankrupt country, the lenders said as they concluded a visit to the Greek capital today.
After months of often heated talks, Athens and its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders appeared to be in the home stretch toward a comprehensive deal to avoid a Greek bankruptcy, though both sides acknowledged some issues remained.
"The authorities and staff teams agreed on most of the core measures needed to restore the momentum of reform and pave the way for the completion of the review," the so-called troika of IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank lenders said.
They said talks on the remaining sticking points, which according to Greek officials centre on job market reforms, will continue with the aim of reaching a deal in the coming days. Financing issues will also be discussed, they added.
Inspectors from the troika were due to leave Athens tonight to brief leaders at a two-day European Union summit starting tomorrow, where Greece's future will loom large in the background despite not being the focus of talks.
Greek officials expressed hope that the country would soon get bailout funds to keep afloat and avoid a euro zone exit.
"I'm confident we're doing everything we have to do in order to get it (a deal) and get it soon, so that we can move towards a recovery," prime minister Antonis Samaras said at a meeting of European centre-right parties in Bucharest.
Once a deal is reached, the troika is due to present a report on Greece's progress in meeting the terms of its bailout and whether it can cut its debt down to sustainable levels.
That report is expected to show that Greece is hugely off track on its commitments, which critics blame on a lack of political will, political paralysis during repeat elections this year and a deeper than expected recession.
But with Greece due to run out of money next month and Europe determined to avoid fresh market turmoil that drags down bigger economies like Spain and Italy, Athens is expected to ultimately secure its next €31.5 billion aid tranche.
Still, Athens needs the blessing of the troika on an €11.5 billion austerity package as well as a long list of reforms first to be able to unlock that aid.
Talks on both fronts have moved slowly since July, with signs of progress tempered by tension and mistrust over the ability of Greece's political brass to push through public sector reform and generate savings.