Greek bailout talks stall as 'technical issues' resolved
High-level talks between Greece and its European creditors on a third bailout for the cash-strapped country have been delayed until logistical matters are sorted out, officials said.
Greek government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili sought to downplay talk that security concerns are a reason why European negotiators will not now arrive in Athens until Saturday at the earliest. They had been expected Friday.
The delay, she said, is related to "technical issues" and that the security of negotiators is not a problem.
"Greece is a safe country," Ms Gerovasili said. "Both sides are trying to expedite the start of talks."
A European official said final preparations regarding the structure of the talks were being ironed out but that discussions at a technical level were taking place between Greece and representatives from the country's creditors.
Greece is looking to secure its third bailout in five years. The latest financial rescue of the country is expected to be worth 85 billion euro (£60 billion) over three years.
Without the money, Greece will face imminent bankruptcy and a possible exit from the euro.
The hope is that the bailout talks, which are now ready to begin after the Greek parliament passed measures demanded by European creditors, will conclude by August 20 when Greece has a debt repayment of around 3.2 billion euro (£2.2 billion) to make to the European Central Bank (ECB).
The final hurdle Greece had to clear before talks could restart came in the early hours of Thursday when Greek lawmakers approved a package of judicial and banking reforms. A week earlier, parliament approved legislation introducing steep sales tax increases.
In spite of a revolt from the ranks of his own radical left Syriza party, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras managed to get both sets of reforms approved with the help of opposition parties.
While the official start of the bailout talks was being awaited, top banking and finance ministry officials met business leaders Friday to discuss ways of easing financial transactions following the imposition of capital controls last month.
Banks reopened on Monday after being closed for more than three weeks, albeit for limited transactions. Daily withdrawals at cash machines are still limited to 60 euro (£43) per account holder.
"With time, the situation is returning to normal and we aim to have things return to the way they were before," said deputy finance minister Dimitris Mardas after the meeting.
Small Business Association chairman Giorgos Kavvathas said that the daily limit for businesses to transfer money abroad has been raised to 100,000 euro (£76,500) - an amount that covers the needs of almost three-quarters of Greek businesses. But Greek authorities vet those money transfers.
Mr Kavvathas said cheque transactions still pose a problem for businesses. Mr Mardas said authorities are looking at ways of dealing with that issue and decisions will be announced soon.