* Eurogroup ministers meet in Brussels on Monday
* France and Germany doubt deal will be reached
* Greek poll shows most back austerity measures
(Adds Schaeuble and Nowotny quotes)
By Pete Harrison
BRUSSELS, March 14 Finance ministers from
countries using the euro hope to agree on Monday on a way of
providing heavily indebted Greece with financial aid, despite
French and German doubts that a deal will be reached.
European policymakers are discussing how to help Greece and
protect the 16-country currency zone but so far have not backed
promises of political support with financial aid. Germany,
Europe's biggest economy, has resisted bailout pledges.
European Union leaders have welcomed austerity measures
announced by the Greek government and a poll on Sunday showed
most Greeks saw them as a step in the right direction, despite
the street protests they have provoked.
A senior EU source told Reuters at the weekend that among
the means being considered to help Greece were bilateral loans
and loan guarantees.
French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said she did not
expect any figure for aid to be announced at Monday's monthly
meeting of the Eurogroup finance ministers in Brussels.
"I'm certainly not expecting any decision being made, or any
button being pressed, or any button being selected to be
pressed, because it's totally premature," she told reporters in
Despite this, she said Greece had "delivered enormously"
with its austerity steps which include promised spending cuts
equal to 2 percent of gross domestic product.
Under EU rules, neither the bloc as a whole nor individual
member states can assume the debts of other countries.
"The Greek government deserves great respect for its savings
efforts," Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told the German
newspaper Bild. "But there are no new factors. Therefore, there
is no reason to take decisions on financial aid on Monday."
TAKE A LOOK Europe's fight with debt [ID:nLDE6211JD]
Ministers to agree on Greek aid [ID:nLDE62C020]
TAKE A LOOK Eurogroup meeting [ID:nLDE62D08S]
FACTBOX-Greece and its economy link.reuters.com/zys23j))
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^> On Saturday, Britain's Guardian newspaper quoted sources as
saying Monday's meeting would agree to make up to 25 billion
euros of support available. The senior EU source told Reuters no
figures were likely at this stage.
"I think we should be able to agree on principles of a euro
area facility for coordinated assistance. The (executive)
European Commission and the Eurogroup task force would have the
mandate to finalise the work," the source said.
He said they would discuss the principles and parameters of
a facility or mechanism that could be activated if needed and
requested, but no figure had been agreed.
"You would have a framework mechanism and you would have
blank spaces for the numbers because there has been no request
(from Greece) yet," the source said.
Greece hopes to reduce its budget deficit this year to 8.7
percent of GDP from 12.7 percent in 2009, a plan that has led to
protests and strikes .
However, just over half the 1,008 people surveyed for the
Greek newspaper Ethnows said last week's 4.8 billion euro ($6.6
billion) package went in "the right direction", while 41.9 said
it did not. Many said unions should tone down their opposition.
Ewald Nowotny, a member of the governing council of the
European Central Bank, said on Austrian television on Sunday
Greece should show it has taken steps to get its public finances
in order before external help can be given.
"Those who are members of the club should keep to the
rules," Nowotny said. "That means when individual states -- and
this would be the case with Greece, get into problems -- then
the first responsibility to repair them lies with the states
The austerity plan has reduced market concern over whether
Greece will be able to service its debt and helped Athens sell
its bonds with ease on debt markets earlier this month.
Policymakers are still searching for ways of making its cost
of borrowing -- still far above that of other Europeans -- more
They are also concerned that the problems in Greece could
undermine confidence in the euro and spread to other heavily
indebted euro zone countries such as Portugal or Spain.
Speaking more generally about the euro zone, Nowotny said
member states should start consolidating their budgets soon.
"The longer member states wait, the more painful the
measures which are needed shall be," he said.
(Additional reporting by Sarah Marsh in Berlin and Sylvia
Westall in Vienna; editing by Timothy Heritage)