EU and IMF hold Greek talks in Brussels, hope for Sunday deal

BRUSSELS/ATHENS (Reuters) - The EU and IMF met in Brussels on Friday to agree on how to coax Greece into more economic reforms linked to its bailout and unlock more funds, with one EU official saying they hoped for a deal by Sunday.

Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration marking a 24-hour strike of the country's biggest public sector union ADEDY against planned tax and pension reforms in Athens, Greece April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Mission chiefs of Greece’s European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders left Athens for consultations in Brussels, adjourning their bailout review for one day, a Greek government official said, but the European Commission stressed these were not emergency talks and said things were still going well.

“The mission chiefs are in Brussels today to attend the Eurogroup Working Group discussion on Greece, as has long been foreseen,” Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told a regular briefing in Brussels. “We are making progress.”

The mission chiefs are due to return to Athens as soon as the working-group meeting ends, another EU official said.

Technical teams of the lenders remained in Athens, a Greek the official said. A meeting of the mission chiefs would go ahead as scheduled with Greece’s labour minister on Saturday after their return.

“They will be back,” the official told Reuters.

The review has dragged on for months mainly due to a rift among the lenders over Greece’s fiscal shortfall by 2018, initially seen at 3 percent by the EU, 1 percent by Athens and 4.5 percent by the IMF.

Representatives of the lenders started new consultations in Athens this week aimed at signing off on Greece’s progress in adopting terms of a multi-billion euro bailout.

If concluded, the review will pave the way for talks on debt relief with the EU and potentially unlock additional funds from the bailout, which is worth up to 86 billion euros (£69.4 billion) in total spread out over three years.

Athens needs the money to repay 3.5 billion euros to the IMF and the European Central Bank in July, as well as for unpaid domestic bills.

One EU official close to the talks said the idea was to reach a deal by Sunday, but a first step was for the IMF and the EU to agree on deficit levels and other targets that Greece must meet. “The Greeks are still short of meeting the conditions of either organisation,” the EU official said.

Additional reporting by Paul Taylor, Robin Emmott and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels and Renee Maltezou in Athens’ Editing by Ruth Pitchford