Greece, creditors in new bid to strike deal in reforms talks

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece and its bailout creditors will make another attempt Monday to overcome disagreements on the austerity savings measures the country should take, after all-night talks failed to produce a breakthrough.

Greek officials had been hoping to wrap up the negotiations with the representatives from its European creditors and the International Monetary Fund over the weekend. But a series of marathon meetings — including a 10-hour session that ended around 6 a.m. Monday — proved fruitless and a new effort was pushed back from Monday afternoon to the evening.

The talks focus on Greece's implementation of spending cuts and reforms it has already committed to, as well as new cutbacks required in coming years to achieve savings targets outlined in its bailout program.

A successful outcome would open the way for a promised lightening of the country's crippling debt burden. That would focus more on reducing interest rates and extending repayment schedules on previous rescue loans rather than an outright write-down of that debt.

The main sticking points include the overhaul of Greece's tottering pension system — where the left-led government insists it will not cut current pensions — tax reforms and protection for people who can't repay bank loans.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted Monday that the debt relief talks must start upon completion of the negotiations. He said Greece will do everything it has committed to, but argued that countries should be free to choose their own means of meeting agreed fiscal targets.

Speaking at a press conference with visiting Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Tsipras also accused the country's creditors of persisting in demanding austerity measures he said have proved ineffective so far.

Greece has depended on rescue loans since 2010. Tsipras' government, elected more than a year ago on promises to reverse painful austerity measures and lead the country out of budgetary supervision by its creditors, performed a complete U-turn in the summer and, facing the dire alternative of leaving the eurozone, signed a third, 86-billion euro ($98-billion) bailout.