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Ministers haggle over bailout deal

Haggling over the final terms for another Greek bail-out is keeping eurozone ministers at the negotiating table in Brussels.

Germany, France, and the chairman of the talks, Jean-Claude Juncker, all indicated a deal was close after months of wrangling over whether Athens qualifies for a second massive financial rescue package from the EU and IMF.

The struggling Greek economy received 110bn euro (£91bn) in 2010 but it was not enough to lift Greece out of crisis.

Now, with strict austerity strings attached, another 130bn euro (£110bn) lifeline looks set to get the go-ahead within weeks of an impending Greek debt default.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble - who last week indicted willingness to let Greece leave the eurozone - said he was now "confident" of a deal on a new aid programme. And his French counterpart said all necessary elements of an accord were in place.

Mr Juncker, Luxembourg's prime minister and chairman of the eurozone nations, said he hoped the meeting would be the "final consultations" before approving the deal.

Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos declared that his government had "fulfilled all the requirements for the approval of the new programme", but acknowledged: "Until the very last moment, the negotiation carries on. Technical problems are being discussed, individual parameters are being examined and preferences or priorities of institutional partners or member-states are affecting the mood of the talks."

A Greek austerity package of severe pay, pensions and jobs cuts as a bail-put condition is in place, and the Greek government has found 325m euros (£270m) of extra, immediate savings in this year's national budget. Written pledges from most key Greek political parties that the austerity measures will be honoured even after a change of government are also in place.

If a deal goes through, Greece's private creditors would take a loss of as much as 70% on what they are owed by Athens - a sacrificial "haircut" that would amount to a debt write-off worth 100 billion euros (£84 billion) to help the Greek economy get back on its feet.

Despite growing threats of some frustrated member states being ready to accept an "orderly default" from Greece, all signs now were of a major effort to clinch a deal to keep Greece inside the euro, as much to avoid the political, as well as economic, fallout from the loss of a eurozone member.


From Belfast Telegraph