EU sees progress on Greek reform, '95 percent' of work done to unlock funds

European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici speaks during a news conference after a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, May 18, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - The European Commission is confident that Greece will conclude the reforms needed to unlock bailout funds before next week’s meeting of euro zone finance ministers, top officials said on Monday.

Greece and its international lenders wrapped up the bulk of reforms needed for badly needed bailout cash in May, but left some loose ends which must be tied up before Athens can receive instalments of 10.3 billion euros ($11.48 billion) by September.

“The Greek authorities have done 95 per cent of changes necessary but not all is finalised. Some changes have to be made in the coming hours,” Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg.

“I am confident Athens will use the time before the Eurogroup to finalise the limited issues that are still open,” Moscovici added, saying that a disbursement of a first tranche of 7.5 billion euros could be decided as early as next week and be made this month.

Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said one of the conditions was the setting-up of an independent agency to collect tax revenue. Euro zone finance ministers will discuss the finalization of the Greek deal in a regular meeting in Luxembourg on June 16.

To qualify for the funds, Greek lawmakers reluctantly approved tax rises and pension reforms, freed up the sale of bad loans weighing on banks’ balance sheets and promised to expedite privatisations.

But Greece must also legislate a series of extra actions which the leftist-led government is resisting due to growing dissent at home after six years of belt-tightening. Another of the measures is phasing out a top-up benefit to pensioners.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mark Trevelyan