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Greece looks for more debt help after cuts commitment

Greece is seeking to persuade its creditors in Europe that it has done enough to receive another chunk of bailout loans and a commitment on alleviating Athens' hefty debt burden.

Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos is to meet his counterparts from the 19-country eurozone at a meeting in Brussels, where Greece will once again top the agenda.

The country is in the middle of its third international bailout, but its progress has been slow in light of various disagreements related to the reforms the government has to impose in return for the rescue money.

The left-led Greek government hopes that a package of measures passed in parliament last week, including further spending cuts and economic reforms, will be enough to break the impasse and allow the so-called eurogroup to release a new bailout instalment - without which the country would struggle to meet its debt servicing obligations in July.

Agreement will also accelerate negotiations on easing Greece's debt repayment terms.

On Monday, French president Emmanuel Macron said his new administration will push for a Greek debt relief deal.

Mr Macron's office said the president spoke to Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and stressed "his determination to find an accord soon to lighten the burden of Greek debt over the long term".

The phone conversation was the first contact between the two since Mr Macron's election earlier this month.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, named last week, is joining his peers for the talks and is travelling to the Belgian capital with Wolfgang Schaeuble, his counterpart in Berlin, who has been a vocal critic of Greece over the seven years of its bailout era.

While Mr Le Maire said it is "important there be a solution that reassures the Greek people and of course reassures Greece's creditors", Mr Schaeuble insisted that "structural reforms are the decisive thing" to improve Greek growth.

He said "extra measures if required" would come after the bailout programme expires next year.

The Greek government is hoping to secure a deal as soon as possible so it can lift the uncertainty which has been hanging around the Greek economy over recent months.

Though Greece has emerged from its economic depression in 2014 and its public finances have improved dramatically, the economy is back in recession, having shrunk for two straight quarters.

Analysts said the main reason why Greece has taken a step back is its stalled bailout negotiations.

The hope is that the release of bailout funds soon will shore up confidence that the country will not face bankruptcy again soon.

Greece is currently in the midst of its third bailout programme - the current three-year deal expires in the summer of 2018 and could be worth up to 86 billion euro (£72 billion) in total.

In return for the money, the government promised to enact a series of austerity measures as well as economic reforms - its progress is continually monitored by institutions from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

While the austerity measures have seen Greece's public finances improve, the draconian spending cuts have seen poverty rates surge to more than 35%.

The country's debt burden stands at around 175%, a level that the Greek government thinks is unsustainable in the long-term - hence its insistence on some debt relief, at least in the form of lower interest payments and longer repayment terms.

The IMF, also, thinks Greece needs a big debt relief deal to get back on track.


From Belfast Telegraph