Bailout inspectors seen returning to Greece to finish review

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BRUSSELS (AP) — Greece's bailout inspectors are likely to return to Athens to complete a much-delayed review of the government's adherence to its economic reform commitments, a top official said Monday.

A successful review of the reforms demanded in the country's latest 80 billion euro ($88 billion) bailout program is needed to release more rescue loans and pave the way for discussions on how to reduce Greece's debt burden.

Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic affairs, said he expects the eurozone's 19 finance ministers meeting on Monday to approve the return of the so-called mission chiefs.

"I think that today we will come to a unanimous decision to send the mission chiefs back to Athens," he said.

Greece is once again the main topic of discussion at the eurozone finance meeting and there are concerns about the left-led Greek government's ability to push its reforms through parliament, where it has only a small majority.

The country is also facing huge problems dealing with a stream of migrants, many of whom are escaping war-torn Syria. Just a few hundred meters away from where the finance ministers are meeting, European leaders are meeting with Turkish government officials on how to deal with the migrant crisis and how to help Greece.

Though the Greek government, which is led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, has delivered much of what's been asked of it, it has stumbled on one key measure: pension reform.

The Greek government wants to protect payments and hike contributions — drawing major protests from professional groups, from farmers to lawyers and undertakers.

But some of Greece's creditors, notably the International Monetary Fund, don't think the Greek government's plans go far enough given the country's parlous financial situation. It has argued that the country should implement even more austerity or be given generous debt-relief measures. Though an outright cut in Greece's debts has been ruled out by eurozone countries, the country could still get some relief by an extension in repayment terms and cuts to interest rates.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone's top official, said there is a need for "credible and sustainable pension reforms" and that the Greek budget "needs to be on track also for the medium-term."

And he didn't sound as though he will be going easy on Greece in light of the country's huge difficulty in coping with unprecedented numbers of refugees.

"They need help and that is what Europe is doing, but this is totally detached from the economic program," he said.


Pylas contributed from London.