ECB's Asmussen to check up on Greek reform progress
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - European Central Bank Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen will visit Greece on Wednesday to discuss progress on reforms needed to ensure more bailout money, the ECB said.
Greece got an aid tranche of 5.8 billion euros ($7.75 billion) from its international lenders - the euro area, its national central banks and the International Monetary Fund - in July and stands to receive another 1 billion euros in October, subject to implementation of further reforms.
The international lenders, known as the troika, will return in Athens in the autumn to find out whether the government needs to find further savings to meet its 2015-2016 budget targets.
"In the run-up to the next troika review mission, ECB Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen will visit Athens for bilateral meetings with Greek policy makers and representatives of society and the business community to discuss the Greek adjustment program and wider euro area developments," the ECB said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.
Asmussen will meet Central Bank Governor George Provopoulos, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and George Zanias, chairman of Greece's biggest lender, National Bank (NBGr.AT), Greek sources told Reuters.
Progress on reform in the recession-stricken country has been patchy and there have been several reports that Greece may need another aid package or more debt relief to get back to a more sustainable financial position.
Earlier this month, the German government, one of Greece's biggest creditor, dismissed a report by Der Spiegel magazine, which quoted a document that said Europe "will certainly agree a new aid program for Greece" and that the existing aid package carried "extremely high" risks.
German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said at the time that Greece was absolutely going in the right direction. This message was echoed by France's Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici on Tuesday.
"It seems to me that this program is on track," Moscovici told Inter radio. "I don't see an urgent need for a new aid plan for Greece."
Tax revenues continue to lag targets, however, and the Greek economy is deep into a depression. It shrank at an annual rate of 4.6 percent in the second quarter. This was, however, a little better than forecast, leading some economists to predict the contraction may decelerate in the fourth quarter.