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Euro area pushes Greece to open books as aid talks resume
[BRUSSELS] European finance ministers piled pressure on Greece to open its books and follow through with pledges agreed to in its rescue package, as the country tries to avoid running out of cash as soon as this month.
Greece will resume talks with its creditors in Brussels on Wednesday, alongside technical talks in Athens to comb through data. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said Greece will make "all necessary" data available.
"It looks as if Greece wants to commit to as little as possible, so that it can get money as soon as possible," Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens, said by phone on Tuesday. "Hopefully, this will resume with the Greek government realizing that some of those reforms must be done as they're necessary to kick-start the economy," Hatzis said.
As Greek officials struggle to meet the euro area's demands, the government's cash supplies are running low. One official from the currency bloc, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said on Monday that Greece's funding might last for one, two or three weeks, though it was difficult to be precise.
"No one really knows how much money is left, no one can tell if it will keep the country afloat until March, April or even summer," Mr Hatzis said.
ECB's Draghi European Central Bank President Mario Draghi took a personal hand in persuading Greece to allow new visits from technical experts, according to two officials familiar with Monday's talks. After the meeting, Varoufakis - who described Draghi as "a very skilled central banker" - said he was confident negotiations would resume in good faith.
"I believe that we are doing our job properly and they will do their job," Mr Varoufakis told reporters in Brussels. "Our job is to start the process which is necessary for the European Central Bank to have confidence." Greece could gain access to some of its remaining bailout money if Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers his nation's pledges, Eurogroup Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said after finance ministers met Monday in Brussels.
Recent debate about who would meet where and when had been "a complete waste of time," Mr Dijsselbloem said.
"If there is time pressure for financing needs that should be helpful for getting the package back on track," he added.
Concerns about the pace of talks helped send the Greek ASE stock index down 4.2 per cent in Athens, its lowest level in more than three weeks, with Piraeus Bank SA down more than 12 per cent. Greek three-year yields rose 191 basis points, or 1.91 percentage points, to 15.95 per cent at 4:52 pm New York time.
The euro-area finance ministers reprimanded Greece for dragging its heels during the two weeks since they reached an agreement to extend Greece's bailout. Mr Tsipras, whose anti- austerity government was elected in January on a promise to renegotiate terms of Greece's 240 billion euro (S$358 billion) bailouts, now has through June to reach a broader agreement on further support.
Euro-area creditors are willing to help solve Greece's financing issues once talks resume, a Greek government official said in an e-mail to reporters. Greece will add to its list of proposed reforms and sees progress in the most recent talks, the official said, asking not to be named in line with policy.
Mr Varoufakis declined to comment on Greece's cash position, saying instead that the country liquidity would be guaranteed by the government with the EU institutions.
Back in Athens Euro-area finance ministers welcomed the decision to allow technical teams back to Greece for more research.
"Most discussions will take place in Brussels, but supporting people will go to Athens to find the right number so that there is no misunderstanding on that," Mr Dijsselbloem said.
While the negotiations continue, the ECB is effectively financing the Greek private sector because of its support for its banks. In a bid to raise the pressure on Greece to reach a deal with authorities, ECB officials will increase the scrutiny on the Emergency Liquidity Assistance extended to Greek lenders with an extraordinary review this week, two officials familiar with the matter said.
As long as Greece remains unlikely to regain market access soon, the ECB probably won't allow its banks to post more T- bills as collateral because that would effectively be monetary financing, another euro-area official said. Monetary financing is banned under European law.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that while Greece wasn't the main focus of Monday's meetings - which also discussed national budget plans - Greece must work with the euro-area institutions and not on its own.
"The Greeks must implement now what they promised to do and must especially refrain from taking one-sided measures," Mr Schaeuble told reporters.
Greece is seeking the disbursement of an outstanding aid tranche totaling about 7 billion euros. Without access to capital markets, its only sources of financing are emergency loans from the euro area's crisis fund and the International Monetary Fund.
The country's ability to win over its euro-area counterparts will depend on whether it can produce budget data and a clearer understanding of the country's financial situation, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said.
"The time comes when what's needed is not declarations of intention or slogans, but figures and verifiable data," Mr Sapin said.