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EU's Moscovici hails signs of 'genuine progress' in Greece negotiations

While talks in Brussels have reportedly yielded progress, EU leaders are emphasizing that more work must be done to reach a deal with Greece. Athens faces two debt repayments of 1.6 billion euros this month alone.

Progress was being made in managing the Greek debt crisis, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande agreeing on a way forward with Greece's budget surplus.

During a telephone conversation on Wednesday evening, the three leaders agreed on the necessity of lower primary surplus targets between Athens and its creditors.

The issue of primary surplus had been a major sticking point between Greece and its creditors, with Athens insisting on keeping lower targets that would allow to honor promises made to voters of increasing public spending.

The EU's commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs hailed "genuine progress" in certain aspects of the negotiations over the Greek debt crisis but added that there were still outstanding points to be addressed. Pierre Moscovici said that progress had been made on a "whole series of topics" but specified that pension and labor market reforms in particular would need to be discussed in further detail.

"There is genuine progress on a certain number of subjects. I would mention VAT [...], the modernization of the administration, talks that have begun over pensions," the commissioner explained.

Eurogroup not quite confident on outlook

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem meanwhile sounded less optimistic about the prospects of reaching any breakthrough in talks with Greece, which Athens hopes will free up a much-needed 7.2 billion euros ($8 billion) in aid.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Dijsselbloem said.

Moscovici's and Dijsselbloem's comments came shortly before another meeting between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels intended to clinch the next step in the country's debt deal.

Talks have been stalled for months, leading Greece to face an immediate deadline this week to repay more than 300 million euros ($338 million) to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

With 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) already expected by the IMF by the end of June, the prospect of Greece defaulting on its debts and being forced out of the eurozone continues to loom large – with or without bailout funds.

ss/kms (AFP, dpa)

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