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Highlights: Euro zone finance ministers meet in Brussels
March 1, 2012 / 2:01 PM / in 6 years

Highlights: Euro zone finance ministers meet in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone finance ministers and officials were meeting in Brussels on Thursday to discuss Greece’s private sector bond exchange and implementation of the Greek authorities’ commitments to economic and structural reforms.

Following are comments from ministers and other officials ahead of their meeting:

SPANISH ECONOMY MINISTER LUIS DE GUINDOS

ON SPANISH BUDGET PLANS FOR 2012 AND DEFICIT IN 2011:

“We don’t expect anything from today” (in terms of easier targets).

“I won’t get into figures... What we’re going to do is to explain last year’s figures and what are the main elements of the 2012 budget, which the government will approve tomorrow (the main elements).”

”Spain is going to meet all its commitments in terms of budget adjustments, taking into account the fact that the situation has changed.

“The previous government had agreed to reduce the deficit to 4.4 percent based on growth of 2.3 percent, which is not the case today.”

“I want to reiterate Spain’s commitment to reforms, to transparency and that is what I am going to say to Eurogroup colleagues.”

DUTCH FINANCE MINISTER JAN KEES DE JAGER

ON GREEK BAILOUT PACKAGE:

”It is not certain yet, so we have to assess whether effective prior actions have been taken for the full amount.

“If not, we cannot definitely make a conclusion today and of course the PSI (private sector bondholder losses) deal will all have to be concluded and that is also not certain yet, so today is not the day we will definitely agree with the final bailout package for Greece.”

FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER FRANCOIS BAROIN

ON GREECE:

“We are satisfied with the work that has been done. Things are moving in the right direction and we can reach an agreement.”

“What we asked (of Greece) has been generally done and favors a definitive signal from the Troika and favors the release (of bailout funds).”

ON FIREWALL AGAINST CONTAGION:

“In the meeting we are going to continue to defend the position of having the best possible protection regarding the firewall and the ESM (permanent bailout fund), so it is a Eurogroup that follows on from last week’s important decisions and that follows a positive logic.”

ON AUSTERITY AND GROWTH:

“There are countries that must strengthen their focus on fiscal consolidation and there are countries that must contribute with their economic model and support growth.”

“Each country must adapt its contribution to growth according to its indebtedness.”

ON FRANCE:

“Regarding France, we must continue with fiscal consolidation, we have no other choice but to reduce our deficit and we must not waver a millimeter, and reach a balanced budget by 2016.”

AUSTRIAN FINANCE MINISTER MARIA FEKTER

“we want to look at Greece’s progress. Things do not look bad, but we want to look at the (EU-IMF troika) report.”

“Without growth, nothing can be done in Greece. The Greeks need to remove monopolistic structures and administrative shortcomings that hold back growth.”

GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE

ON GREEK DEBT SWAP:

”If the conditions are met they we can decide today that we can release things that we need, so that the swap for Greece and private creditors is put on track.

”What I have heard it looks like Greece has made large strides. That is why I think the we will take an important step forward.

“The European Council is dealing with questions of growth. This is the limited task of finance ministers which should help bring about the next step of Greece. It is a long path. If Greece had no problems and a good economic position then we would not be here.”

ON SECOND BAILOUT FOR GREECE:

”Greece has committed to a series of measures until the end of February. That is the condition for us to take the next step with the involvement of private creditors to bring about a reduction in total debt.

”And if it all goes to plan then we can agree a new program for Greece, which would have the goal of enabling growth, bringing finances in order and reaching debt sustainability by 2020.

”It is proceeding.

The second Greek program is not at all decided..... It is really premature to talk about a third.”

GREEK FINANCE MINISTER EVANGELOS VENIZELOS

ON PRIVATE BONDHOLDER PARTICIPATION IN GREEK BOND EXCHANGE:

”After the decisions of the last Eurogroup for the adoption of the new support program of the Greek economy and the official launch of PSI, we are waiting for the response of the market.

”As you know, the concrete form of the bond exchange is agreed with the private sector and everybody understands very well that we have four very important and attractive elements: the co-financing, the English law, the sweetener in cash and the GDP warrants. This is a very good, a unique offer.

“I am sure that the market understands very well how clear is my message.”

IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR CHRISTINE LAGARDE

“We will look at the work of the Greek authorities. I have a positive impression about the good work that has been done in the last hours.”

Reporting by John O'Donnell, Robin Emmott, Julien Toyer and Harry Papachristou

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