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Eurozone finance ministers meet to talk Greece

April 24, 2015

Finance ministers from the euro currency bloc are meeting in Riga to discuss Greece's economic plight. Time is running short for the country to meet the conditions to unlock vital bailout funds.

EU Finanzministertreffen in Riga Dijsselbloem und Draghi
Image: Reuters/I. Kalnins

Friday's meeting of eurozone finance ministers in the Latvian capital, Riga, was to review the progress made in sluggish negotiations between Athens and its international creditors.

The Greek government under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is seeking to gain access to 7.2 billion euros ($7.8 billion) remaining from an existing 240-billion-euro international bailout, but has so far failed to agree on the economic reforms demanded by creditors in exchange for the money.

On Wednesday, eurozone and Greek officials said Athens could possibly meet its payment obligations into June by pooling public cash reserves, but that it did not have enough funds to cover a raft of bond redemptions due to the European Central Bank (ECB) in July and August.

A failure to meet its obligations could result in bankruptcy and a Greek exit from the eurozone.

'Decreased trust'

Ahead of Friday's talks, one of the EU's top economy officials, European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, said trust between Athens and its creditors had diminished.

"It's very difficult to understand everything that is going on at the moment here and this is a very bad thing, because you cannot negotiate if you don't trust," he told journalists during a visit to Greece on Thursday.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble also expressed little optimism about the Riga meeting, saying he did not believe there would be any decisive progress made.

Greece's creditors - with Berlin's vocal support - are calling on Athens to submit a comprehensive list of reforms in exchange for the unlocking of the remaining bailout funds.

But Tspiras, who was elected in January on an anti-austerity platform, is balking at carrying through on commitments made by a previous conservative-led government to reform labor markets, pensions and sales tax.

Despite Athens' apparent recalcitrance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday reiterated her determination to stop Greece running out of money before an agreement was reached with its official lenders.

"Everything must be undertaken to prevent that," she told a news conference following talks with Tsipras that she described as "constructive."

tj/kms (Reuters, dpa)