ATHENS Jan 16 Greece's international lenders
are due to return to Athens at the end of the month to resume a
review of progress made under its bailout before paying out more
rescue loans, a finance ministry official said on Thursday.
Officials from the European Commission, International
Monetary Fund and European Central Bank - the "troika" - began
their latest review in September but it has been interrupted
three times since.
Greece's fragile coalition government is reluctant to adopt
further austerity measures during a prolonged recession and with
The two sides have yet to agree on the size of budget
savings needed to meet 2014 fiscal targets and would not do so
by the time euro zone finance ministers meet on Jan. 27, Greek
officials have said.
While no return date had been officially set, the troika was
expected to return to Athens this week after interrupting the
review in mid-December.
"We felt it was not possible to reach agreement by the
Eurogroup as we would have a limited three to four days," the
finance ministry official told reporters, speaking on condition
Greece has been kept afloat by a financial lifeline from the
euro zone and the IMF since 2010. It has so far received about
220 billion euros from the 240 billion for 2010-2014.
Successful conclusion of the ongoing review would release
4.9 billion euros of bailout loans but any agreement is not
expected before February, until a series of thorny issues are
resolved, including removing regulations that bar mass layoffs
in the private sector.
Greece nearly went bankrupt last year as it struggled to
meet its bailout pledges but has no pressing funding needs until
May, when bond payments of about 9.3 billion euros are due.
However, speedy conclusion of the talks would pave the way
for addressing how to cover an 11 billion euro funding shortfall
The country expects to receive additional debt relief later
this year after official confirmation that it posted a budget
surplus before debt servicing costs in 2013.
(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Karolina Tagaris)