Greece bailout: eurozone finance ministers' meet called off
The meeting was intended to approve a $170 billion financial rescue package for Greece.
Berlin: The eurozone finance ministers have called off an emergency meeting in Brussels today, which was intended to approve a $170 billion financial rescue package for Greece, raising new fears that the debt-laden nation may be heading to a default on its loans.
As Greece has not fulfilled the conditions set by the European Union and the IMF to receive the second bailout package, the finance ministers agreed to cancel their meeting and to hold a telephone conference instead, Chairman of the euro group Jean-Claude Juncker said.
The latest postponement of a decision to release the second bailout, which was offered by the EU leaders last October, comes a day after the Greek parliament passed a new package of tough austerity measures demanded by the EU and the IMF, which triggered massive protests in Athens and in other Greek cities.
Greece's new austerity programme passed on Sunday night was one of the conditions set by the EU and the IMF to release the proposed financial assistance, which it urgently needs to avert a default on repaying €14.5 billion debts due on 20 March.
The austerity plan is intended to save upto € 3.3 billion through drastic reduction of public sector jobs, cuts in minimum wages and pensions and freezing of salaries.
However, the EU-IMF demand for a written undertaking by Greece's major political parties that they will implement the austerity programme regardless of the outcome of the parliamentary election in April has not been fulfilled, Juncker said in a statement.
The Greek government also has not presented a clear plan on how it intended to save an additional € 325 million this year demanded by the EU and the IMF.
The "Troika" experts of the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank must continue to work with the Greek government to resolve the remaining differences in these areas, he said.
"Against this background, I have decided to convene ministers to a conference call tomorrow in order to discuss the outstanding issues and to prepare the ordinary meeting of the euro group on 20 February," Juncker said.
An agreement between the Greek government and its private creditors on writing down a part of its massive debts of € 350 billion through a bond buy-back programme, which is one of the conditions to receive the second bailout, also has not been met as the negotiations are still continuing.
Besides the finance ministers from the 17 eurozone nations, the EU Commissioner on Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn and president of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi also were scheduled to attend today's meeting.
A second bailout became necessary as Greece's deficit widened, debt burden continued to mount and the economy plunged deeper into recession in spite of a 110 billion financial rescue package it received from the EU and the IMF in May 2010.
The Greek government's latest report on the country's economic outlook said the economy, which is in the fifth year of recession, shrank 6.8 percent last year, much worse than anticipated. In 2010, the GDP contracted by 4.5 percent.
Unemployment level continued to rise and and reached around 20 percent.
According to financial experts, the Greek government's austerity measures, which began with the first rescue package it received in 2010, are the main cause of the worsening economic downturn.
Some financial experts said the time is running out for Greece to reach a deal with its EU partners and the IMF and technically it will be difficult to avert a default on its debts before the 20 March deadline even if the remaining differences between the two sides were ironed out in the coming days and an agreement on releasing the financial rescue package could be reached by the eurozone finance ministers on Monday or by the EU leaders at their next summit early next month.
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