Belfast Telegraph

Eurozone deal on hold until Greece delivers

By Renee Maltezou and Robin Emmott

Turbulent times: A protester throws an object towards riot police during clashes in Athens on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the square outside government buildings as a parliamentary debate on further austerity cuts began AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis

The meeting of Eurozone finance ministers due to take place today to settle Greek's bailout deal has been postponed after the embattled country failed to meet the Eurogroup’s demands.

Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the group and Prime Minister of Luxembourg, said the Eurogroup was still awaiting information from Athens on how it plans to save a promised $325m (£272m).

He said he also did not receive assurances from the leaders of the two main Greek parties that they would implement the programme even after elections expected for April.

Mr Juncker said the ministers will instead have a teleconference and meet next Monday.

Greece is under massive time pressure to secure a bailout. It also needs approval for a separate debt relief deal with private creditors that has to be settled by March 20 and needs several weeks to implement. The EU wants Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos to specify how €325m of the €3.3bn demanded in budget savings will be achieved.

Greek political leaders must also give a written commitment to implement the terms of the deal, a Greek government spokesman said, reflecting fatigue among EU leaders who say they have heard enough broken promises.

A Greek government spokesman said Greece would hold an election in April, when public anger over the second round of austerity cuts could drive voters further to the left and right and test Greece's commitment to the programme.

Eurozone paymaster Germany said that it was losing patience with throwing money into the “bottomless pit” of Greece's debt crisis.

“Now we need to wait and see what comes after the legislation,” Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said.

“We have taken one step in the right direction but we are still far from the goal.”

Greece needs the international funds before March 20 to meet debt repayments of €14.5bn.

Scenes of battles between police and rioters and flames engulfing cinemas, shops and banks underscored a sense of deepening turmoil in the country after more than four years of recession and two of punishing austerity.

The EU warned that the consequences of failure would be “devastating”.

Belfast Telegraph