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March 23, 2023

Greece bailout: Eurozone calls for tighter oversight

ATHENS – Eurozone finance ministers have demanded much greater oversight of Greece’s economy in return for a 130bn-euro (£110bn; $170bn) bailout package. In a three-hour conference call on Wednesday, the ministers scrutinised Greece’s planned budget cuts, BBC informs.

The single currency bloc praised Greece’s “substantial progress”, but demanded more detail, including a full timeline for implementing the measures. A decision on the bailout is expected to be finalised on Monday. Greece faces a looming deadline in mid-March when it needs to make repayments on a 14.5bn-euro bond, or face bankruptcy. The EU and IMF have demanded that Greece make deep cuts and restructure its economy in return for the bailout. Speaking after a conference call between the 17 eurozone finance ministers on Wednesday, Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the so-called Eurogroup, praised the progress Greece had made. But he said more work was needed to strengthen oversight of how Greece would implement its austerity plans. The BBC’s Chris Morris in Brussels says the call reflects scepticism that Greece is willing or able to deliver on its promises of reform. The “troika” of institutional lenders – the EU, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) – had been demanding that Greece identify 325m euros of further spending cuts. Mr Juncker said work on this had been carried out, including a timetable for implementation. The ministers also insisted that the major Greek political parties promise in writing to implement the cuts, regardless of who wins a general election scheduled for April. Leaders of the two main parties have now signed letters committing them to enacting the changes.

Meanwhile, President Karolos Papoulias hit out at German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose comments during the talks stirred anger in Greece. “I do not accept having my country taunted by Mr Schaeuble, as a Greek I do not accept it,” Mr Papoulias said. Earlier, Mr Schaeuble said: “We can help, but we are not going to pour money into a bottomless pit.”

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