| AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France, July 7
AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France, July 7 International
lenders are very close to wrapping up talks with Greece to
unlock further aid though more efforts are required from Athens,
the EU's top economic official told Reuters a day before euro
zone finance ministers meet to decide on the aid.
Athens has been in talks with inspectors from the European
Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund
since Monday to settle issues in its bailout performance review
after failing to deliver on public sector reforms.
"We are very close to a staff-level agreement," EU economic
and monetary affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said, referring to
talks between officials.
"The final decision is for tomorrow. The ball is in the
Greek court and it depends on whether Greece is able to deliver
the remaining elements of the milestones that have been agreed."
Greece hopes that euro zone finance ministers will agree to
up to 8.1 billion euros ($10.40 billion) in aid when they meet
on Monday as it needs part of the money to redeem about 2.2
billion euros of bonds in August.
The government missed a June deadline to put 12,500 state
workers into a "mobility scheme," under which they are
transferred or laid off within a year, but agreement was reached
after lengthy talks on Saturday, Greek officials have said.
Other issues discussed included ways to cover a fiscal gap.
Rehn reiterated comments first said on Friday that Greece
could get its next tranche of international aid in various
After worries over the euro zone resurfaced over the past
weeks with political turmoil in both Greece and Portugal, the EU
Commissioner said it was crucial that Lisbon kept working on
Portugal's prime minister promoted the head of the junior
coalition party to be his deputy on Saturday, hoping to end a
political rift that sparked high level resignations and
threatened to bring down the government and endanger the
"Portugal scored an own goal one or two weeks ago. However,
political leaders are now taking action in order to ensure
political stability of the country, which is essential in order
to continue stabilization and restore recovery in the country,"
Rehn said, adding that this was key for the country to
eventually exit its EU/IMF bailout.
Portugal had been held up as an example of a bailout country
doing all the right things to get its economy back in shape.
Rehn welcomed the European Central Bank's decision on
Thursday to respond to turbulence caused by the U.S. Federal
Reserve's exit plan from money-printing by abandoning its own
insistence that it never offers forward guidance on policy.
The ECB said it would keep interest rates at record lows for
an extended period.
"For market participants and the general public it is most
useful that the ECB has clarified its intentions with forward
guidance," he said. "The United States and Europe are at
different points of the economic cycle. While the U.S. has a
more restrictive approach, Europe needs to continue with a more
($1 = 0.7792 euros)
(Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)