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'Good progress' urged in Greece

The EU's top finance official has said he expects Greece and its creditors to make "good progress" by next Monday on finding a way to keep the nation afloat and in the eurozone.

EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici discussed the protracted bailout talks with Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in Brussels today as the country faces the prospect of running out of money within weeks.

Greece and the eurozone finance ministers are meeting on May 11, just a day before Athens is scheduled to make a 750 million euro (£550 million) repayment to the International Monetary Fund it is not certain it can afford.

"What I hope is that before May 11, in one week exactly, we will be able to have seen good progress in our discussion," Mr Moscovici said. "That is the signal that everyone is waiting for, both in Greece and by its partners."

However, Germany, Greece's biggest European creditor, suggested the May 11 deadline is optimistic.

"I'm rather sceptical that we'll manage it by Monday but I don't rule it out," Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told a group of reporters in Berlin.

He said the talks were more constructive than in the past but the timing of a deal was still uncertain. Mr Schaeuble also denied reports that the IMF had told eurozone finance ministers that Greece would need a trim to its debt.

As Mr Varoufakis was shuttling from Athens to Paris and Brussels, Greek Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis was to meet in Frankfurt with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

After a cantankerous meeting with his eurozone colleagues last month, Mr Varoufakis wanted to make a point during bilateral talks today.

"It was particularly important to lay out the positive moves the Greek government has made since February so there can be an agreement," he said after meeting his French counterpart Michel Sapin.

The international creditors are pushing the Greek government to deliver economic reforms and budget measures demanded before they want to unlock the remaining 7.2 billion euro (£5.2 billion) in its bailout fund.

But the leftwing government wants to safeguard a core of campaign promises that were vital in its January election victory, all centring on relaxing the austerity measures that had been imposed on Greece to somehow stave off its financial decline.


From Belfast Telegraph