Eurozone chief heads to Brussels to give Greece talks a push

Eurozone chief heads to Brussels to give Greece talks a push

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The eurozone’s top official will travel to Brussels on Friday to try to push forward talks on Greece’s bailout program, amid renewed tensions about the debt-laden nation’s reforms and its future in the euro.

“The reforms in Greece are going slowly, but they’re going in the right direction,” said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the eurozone finance ministers’ group. “They now need a push. I am not in a great hurry, so the stories about a crisis are a gross exaggeration.”

Greece needs to agree with the International Monetary Fund and its European creditors on more reforms to keep tapping its bailout loans. Although Greece insists it doesn’t have pressing cash needs, without the money, it would eventually face the renewed possibility of default — something that nearly caused it to fall out of the euro bloc in 2015.

Greece’s next big debt repayment deadline is in July, but officials want to solve its funding problems before then as key European elections loom as early as next month. The Netherlands goes to the polls on March 15, followed by France and Germany later in the year, and the issue of providing more loans to Greece is politically sensitive.

Negotiations over Greece’s reforms remain mired in disagreement. The Greek government opposes labour reforms, and the IMF is at odds with European lenders over the extent to which the country’s massive debts should be eased.

Dijsselbloem said the talks in Brussels would not be about debt relief.

“What is on the table is the budget, the primary surplus, further reforms in the pension system,” Dijsselbloem said.

The Associated Press

Canadian Press