BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone finance ministers will not meet on Thursday and need more time to discuss Greek reforms that would unlock new loans, signalling significant differences remain between Athens and its lenders on bailout targets.
The meeting was a possibility because Athens and its EU/IMF lenders aimed to reach an agreement this week on reforms needed to conclude a key review of the country’s bailout progress that would unlock funds under a multibillion-euro bailout package it signed up to in July.
Greece and its creditors have agreed on a package of reforms worth 3 percent of its economic output but still disagreed on contingent measures, to be implemented only if needed, to make sure the country reaches agreed fiscal targets in 2018.
A swift, comprehensive deal would also pave the way for talks on debt relief, which Athens hopes will help restore investor confidence and convince Greeks that their sacrifices are paying off after six years of austerity.
“No additional Eurogroup on Greece this Thursday, more time needed,” said the spokesman for the chairman of euro zone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem. “Meeting on first review, contingency package and debt at later stage,” the spokesman, Michel Reijns, said on Twitter on Tuesday.
His comments came just hours after a meeting in Athens between Greek officials and inspectors representing the lenders ended inconclusively.
A second official said a meeting of the Eurogroup could come next week, although that was still to be confirmed.
Later on Tuesday, a government source said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras planned to contact European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday to seek a summit of European leaders to discuss the terms of the country’s bailout deal.
“He wants to secure that the terms of the July bailout agreement will be respected,” the source said.
Greece does not want to adopt any contingent measures, saying it is not what it signed up for in July and adding it would be against Greek law, but has offered to set up a mechanism to automatically cut spending if targets are not met.
The delays have increased pressure on the left-led government, which had promised to conclude the negotiations before Orthodox Easter, on May 1, and needs bailout funds to pay IMF loans, ECB bonds maturing in July and state arrears.
The special measures, which mean annual savings of around 2 percent of Greek economic output, are to come on top of the basic reform package.
A deal on the two sets of reforms - the basic and the special ones - should enable euro zone finance ministers to start a discussion on how to help Greece deal with its heavy debt load that Athens says is suffocating the economy.
Reporting by Robin Emmott and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Renee Maltezou in Athens; Editing by Ralph Boulton and James Dalgleish