Austria's finance minister sees no further Greek bailout, for now

Tue Apr 1, 2014 4:59am EDT

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ATHENS, April 1 (Reuters) - Austria's finance minister played down the idea that Greece may need another package of financial aid, saying on Tuesday he saw no need for more help now and hoped that would remain the case.

Michael Spindelegger made his remarks as euro zone finance ministers met in Athens on Tuesday to discuss the payment of loans pledged to Greece under international rescues.

"Currently, we do not expect Greece will need a third package," Spindelegger told journalists. "I hope it will stay like this."

His remarks may rekindle a debate that had largely died down after German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said last August Greece might need another bailout.

So far, Greece has received about 218 billion euros of loans from its euro zone neighbours and the International Monetary Fund, in return for tightening its spending before resuming normal market borrowing.

Time is running out, however. Greece's second bailout programme ends this year. Its notional 10-year borrowing costs remain stubbornly above the European average, making a return to markets difficult.

But Greece wants to avoid another bailout because it fears further austerity measures. It plans a first, small bond sale as early as the first half of this year.

Spindelegger said there had been encouraging progress in Greece, although he flagged a delay in plans to sell state assets and reform labour laws.

Last week, a senior euro zone official said there were no plans for a third bailout, and such an option would be considered only if Athens asks for it.

Greek 10-year yields have fallen to about 6.5 percent from more than 30 percent in the past two years, showing an improvement in the notional cost of borrowing for Athens. (Reporting by Martin Santa and Tom Koerkemeier, Editing by Larry King)

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