“Progress has been achieved on important issues, but further work is still needed in a number of areas,” the head of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem told a news conference at the end of a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers in Brussels.
Dijsselbloem said: “We discussed the state of play of the first review of the ESM programme, following the visit of mission chiefs to Athens last week. This important review deals with the key fiscal and structural measures. We were informed that there is good cooperation, a lot of ground has been covered, progress achieved on important issues, but further work is still needed in a number of areas before a staff-level agreement can be reached.
We called on both the Greek authorities and the institutions to pursue the discussions on the review further, in particular on items such as pension reform, the fiscal issues and the privatisation fund, with a view to reaching that staff-level agreement.”
EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said: “Our winter forecast last week highlighted the surprising resilience of the Greek economy to the uncertainty of last year and the introduction of capital controls. Provided reform momentum is maintained, the economy should start growing again in the second half of this year.
In terms of the first review mission, there were constructive talks in Athens last week and good progress was made on a number of fronts. Intense work is now ongoing at the technical level. This work needs to continue at an adequate pace in the coming days so that our mission chiefs can return to Athens as soon as possible and take forward negotiations with a view to reaching a staff level agreement in the coming weeks.
I want to stress two things: First, I know that the reforms being discussed at the moment are in many cases very difficult – politically, socially. The pension reform is of course the most obvious example of this. But, and this is my second point, these necessary reforms will not become any easier by delaying the moment when they need to be agreed and adopted. So I am encouraged, as all members of the Eurogroup, by the Greek authorities’ statements that they intend to work for a swift conclusion of the review. For our part, we will of course work as hard as is needed to facilitate that. The general mood of discussion was positive concerning progress made although we know that we are not there yet and that there is still some way to go.”