First Posted: 7/8/2013
BRUSSELS — European finance ministers moved towards granting Greece the latest installment in its bailout program Monday after international debt inspectors pushed the cash-strapped country to pick up the pace of much-needed reforms.
Greece’s creditors — the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund — said that while the country’s reform program remained largely on track, it was moving too slowly. More needed to be done, the troika said, including firing thousands of people from the bloated civil service. But they added that the Greek authorities have pledged to get the austerity process back on track.
Experts from the group of creditors recommended the country should be given the next rescue payment. Finance ministers from the 17 European Union nations that use the euro were studying the latest review of Greece’s economy by its creditors and debating whether to give the final approval at a meeting in Brussels on Monday evening.
After years of overspending, Greece nearly went bankrupt and is now surviving on rescue loans. To ensure that the government keeps up with the reforms it promised in exchange for 240 billion euros ($309 billion) in bailout loans, its creditors turn over the funds slowly — and only after rigorous assessments of the country’s progress.
As he arrived in Brussels, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said he thought Greece could get its money as soon as the end of the month.
Even Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, who generally drives a hard bargain at these meetings, struck a positive note.
“I am confident that we will take another step today and that we won’t have any kind of dramatic crises in Greece also in the coming months,” he told reporters. “It will remain a difficult road for Greece — there I would warn against any illusion.”
The exact amount to be disbursed remains unclear. Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras had said in June that the installment was expected to be as high as 8.1 billion euros. But by Monday afternoon that appeared unlikely.