Highlights: Comments from euro zone finance ministers and officials

BRUSSELS Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:55pm EST

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone finance ministers and officials met in Brussels on Monday to discuss the situation in Greece.

While they were not expected to authorize more money for Athens, they were seen likely to give Greece two more years to meet its goals.

Following are comments after Monday's talks:

IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR CHRISTINE LAGARDE

ON SUSTAINABILITY OF GREEK DEBT:

"All avenues in order to reduce debt on Greece are being explored and will continue to be explored in the coming days.

"What we regard as critical, as far as the IMF is concerned, is that the Greek debt be sustainable.

"In our view the appropriate timetable is 120 percent by 2020. We clearly have different views. What matters at the end of the day is the sustainability of Greek debt, so that that country can be back on its feet and re-access the private market in due course."

ON GREEK BUDGET AND ACTIONS:

"That...(budget law) clearly needs to be reviewed a little bit, to make sure that all prior actions contained in that budget law are actually taken. There will be a few, only a few additional prior actions to be verified in the coming days..."

"This really indicates a really strong resolve by the Greek authorities to actually deliver and implement on a very ambitious and important program, both from the growth perspective and from the perspective of debt sustainability."

EU ECONOMIC AND MONETARY AFFAIRS COMMISSIONER OLLI REHN

ON GREEK PROGRAMME AND STRUCTURAL REFORMS:

"If you look at the Greek program, I'd like to make one point on fiscal and another on structural issues:

"It's worth noting that the adjustment in Greece's structural budget balance has already exceeded the 10 percentage points required at the start of the first program in May 2010, for the period for 2009-2014.

"In fact, Greece has already improved its structural balance by no less than 13 percentage points of GDP since 2010 and this margin will increase further with the implementation of additional measures foreseen for 2013 and 2014.

"I hope all those who openly dismiss the potential of this program for fiscal sustainability by Greece will dwell on this.

"Moreover, as regards to structural reforms it's time to debunk the perception that no progress has been made. This perception is damaging, it's unfair and it is simply wrong."

ON BAILOUT FOR CYPRUS:

"It would have been important to achieve an agreement on the memorandum already earlier, because the situation is rather difficult, the economic and financial situation, it's rather difficult. But things are now moving forward."

EUROGROUP PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER

ON GREEK ACTION:

"The Eurogroup acknowledges the considerable efforts already made by Greek citizens and is convinced that continued fiscal and structural reforms will after another very difficult period allow the economy to return to sustainable growth path with higher employment which is Greece's best guarantee for a more prosperous future.

"The Eurogroup welcomes the resolve of the Greek authorities to bring the program back on track, notably through the adoption by its parliament... of a substantial set of reforms.

"The Eurogroup concludes that the revised fiscal targets as requested by the Greek government and reported by the troika would be an appropriate adjustment for the further path of fiscal consolidation... The Eurogroup looks forward to the adoption of the legal text by the Council."

"Together with the review of the Greek adjustment program, the Eurogroup will further discuss financing needs and debt sustainability at an extraordinary meeting that will be convened on November 20."

ON SPAIN:

"We welcome that the Spanish banking program seems to be well on track and we look forward to the final assessment to be presented to the Commission.

"We expect the Commission decision on the restructuring plans to come out in the weeks to the end of November, together with the review report, this will be the basis for a decision on the first disbursement of the banking program. The decision on the disbursement will take place before the end of November, enabling the European Stability Mechanism to make the disbursement in early December."

Following are earlier comments ahead of the talks:

BELGIAN FINANCE MINISTER STEVEN VANACKERE

"In Europe, decisions are always made when the knife is, so to speak, at our throats, when the abyss is near.

"The very important decisions Greece has passed in its parliament cannot be without effect. We have to find a solution together with the Greeks, which is much better for the whole euro zone than all those ugly scenarios which have been doing the rounds in the past months and which don't offer a sustainable solution for the euro zone.

"I believe that we have to move ahead. We have to do this in a constructive fashion, but in a way that guarantees that Greece continues its efforts."

AUSTRIAN FINANCE MINISTER MARIA FEKTER

ON SITUATION IN GREECE:

"Greece must be able to stand on its own feet in the foreseeable future. Otherwise, Greece will be permanently dependent on the support of its EU peers."

"The Austrian taxpayers are also shaking their heads about why we need extra money for Greece every three months."

ON MORE TIME FOR GREECE:

"We know that Greece has asked for a bit more time, but more time means more money. That's an issue because where should that money come from?"

"I can't imagine that the other states, the ministers, want to go back to their taxpayers and that we will have to decide on new packages for Greece that cost even more in our parliaments. We have to be more creative."

ON POSSIBILITY OF THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK (ECB) FORGOING GAINS ON ITS GREEK DEBT HOLDINGS:

"The profits of the ECB (European Central Bank) belong to the national banks. Our national bank is independent and I don't know yet how that money could go to Greece."

FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER PIERRE MOSCOVICI

ON GREEK PROGRAMME:

"I think that a deal to put the Greek program back on track and restore confidence in the euro zone is both desirable and possible. I have come here with the idea of helping to reach this political agreement so we can make substantial progress tonight to get us out of this situation.

"Since the Greeks have made considerable efforts which we asked of them, we now have to make good on our responsibilities. Not everything will be resolved today but I want there to be decisive progress in this Eurogroup."

ON DECISIONS FOR GREECE:

"What is on the agenda today is a political agreement to move forward and permit the validation of the Greek program and I am strongly in favor.

"There will remain additional questions to resolve such as the sustainability of Greek debt.

"In light of the very important decisions taken by the Greeks in recent days we have to give a response and it has to be a positive one... If a bit more time is needed to complete it, we will take it, but we need a strong signal from this Eurogroup, not a weak one...

"Technical questions are important, and there are financial considerations behind them, but our political responsibility is to extend a helping hand to Greece and be ready with a political deal."

IRISH FINANCE MINISTER MICHAEL NOONAN

ON SITUATION IN GREECE:

"Greece has made steady progress this week - two very important pieces of legislation have gone through. A lot of the earlier legislation was the prior conditions necessary for a renewal of their bailout and yesterday they passed... a budget with a lot of serious measures in it, so they seem to be fulfilling all of the conditions that they are being asked to fulfill."

ON GREECE'S FUNDING REQUIREMENT IN EU/IMF TROIKA REPORT:

"I think that figure has been in circulation for some time - that if the program was extended by two years, that there would be a funding gap of 31-32 billion (euros), so again we'll have to see later what proposals are being put forward by the troika in respect of the funding gap."

ASKED ABOUT DIFFERENCES AMONG THE TROIKA:

"There are always differences of opinion among the troika. But I haven't heard of any difference of opinion on this occasion. But of course they operate by different criteria, and as they apply their criteria it doesn't mean that there's any contention between them, it's simply that the Greek program will have to fulfill not only the criteria of the (European) Commission and the ECB (European Central Bank), but will have to fulfill the conditions of the IMF as well, and as I said the criteria are different."

IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR CHRISTINE LAGARDE

"Greece has done its work and shown some real resolve, so it's now for the creditors to do the same and certainly the IMF, as always, will play its part.

"We are in for not a quick fix, but a real fix. Not a quick fix, but a real fix."

GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE

ON DECISIONS ABOUT GREECE:

"First we'll have to see what Greece has delivered. Seriously, thoroughness is a must and before we decide, Germany's Bundestag has to be involved, just like in other countries.

"But we are within the timeframe, aware of our responsibility but we are sticking to the law."

"I'd like to see if Greece has fulfilled all its obligations and then I'd like to hear the (EU/IMF) troika report because it depends on the Greek government having found a solution with the troika, and I haven't read anything on that on the wires."

SPANISH ECONOMY MINISTER LUIS DE GUINDOS

ON SITUATION IN SPAIN:

"The future of the euro is being played out in Spain."

ON SPANISH ECONOMY:

"We are conscious that international forecasts for Spain are lower than our own forecasts. But those forecasts are not written in stone. We are working in our economic program to meet our forecasts that we consider to be realistic."

ON DEFICIT STRATEGY:

"We have to take into account that Europe is in recession and that in these circumstances, we must look not just at nominal targets, but at structural ones.

"We see positive signs that indicate that our efforts to correct imbalances can in the medium-term start to produce results.

"The current account surplus forecast for 2013 could even be met this year."

"We have to reduce the fiscal deficit at a sensible pace. In the medium term we need sound public finances, but it has to be a sensible pace that doesn't create future problems and everyone in the Eurogroup is on the same page in that regard."

ON FINANCIAL REFORM:

"We need to take two steps - the capital injection, and we expect Commission approval in the next few weeks, and the other is the bad bank... The combination of the capital injection and the bad bank should leave the process perfectly clear and create a much-healed, stronger financial sector."

FINNISH FINANCE MINISTER JUTTA URPILAINEN

ON EU/IMF TROIKA REPORT ON GREEK DEBT SUSTAINABILITY:

"To get the sustainability report is very important and now we are waiting for more information.

"Unfortunately we haven't got all the information, not yet, so we are waiting for more information and we can see whether we are able to make decisions today or later this week.

"Probably we are not able to make decisions today, but we will see."

DUTCH FINANCE MINISTER JEROEN DIJSSELBLOEM

ON GREECE AND EUROPEAN COMMISSION/ECB/IMF TROIKA:

"I want to hear today where we are: the findings of the troika and the recommendations that they are making, and how we will continue from here."

ON TIMING OF DECISIONS ON GREECE:

"We won't be put under pressure, the Greeks too have waited for the last moment with many things. We too will take the time we need to see where we are."

ON ADDITIONAL TIME FOR GREECE TO MEET TARGETS:

"There are many possibilities, but I won't get ahead of myself."

ON NEXT FOUR YEARS AS DUTCH FINANCE MINISTER:

"Greece has a long way to go, so that will take a long time. It's clear that we will have to make large step towards guaranteeing the stability of the euro."

(Reporting by Luke Baker, Jan Strupczewski, Robert-Jan Bartunek, John O'Donnell, Daniel Flynn, Annika Breidthardt and Robin Emmott; compiled by Rex Merrifield)

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