Eurozone to honor Greece debt pledge, insists on conditions

Agence France Presse

Posted at May 06 2014 07:37 AM | Updated as of May 06 2014 03:37 PM

GERRY ADAMSBRUSSELS - Eurozone member states will honor a 2012 pledge to help Greece manage its crushing debt mountain but Athens must first meet conditions set, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Monday.

At the same time, any debt review will come only later this year after Greek efforts to live up to its rescue programme commitments and put the economy and banks back on track are assessed, Dijsselbloem said after a meeting of the 18 eurozone finance ministers.

Eurozone nations "reaffirm their commitment to provide adequate support until Greece regains full market access, provided Greece fully complies with the requirements and objectives of the adjustment programme," the ministers said in a statement.

"The relative merits of possible debt sustainability measures, as stated (in November 2012) will be considered in the context of the next review," it added.

Greece has been pressing its eurozone partners to begin debt relief talks as soon as possible, having last year chalked up a primary budget surplus, a key landmark set for the country's recovery.

EU data agency Eurostat confirmed last month that Athens had achieved a 2013 primary budget surplus -- the balance before interest, bank support and other payments are counted -- equal to 0.8 percent of GDP.

Greece is also returning to growth after six years of brutal recession which has shrunk the economy by a quarter.

But it remains saddled with a debt mountain equal to some 175 percent of GDP, way above the EU limit of 60 percent.

Dijsselbloem said Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras had raised the issue directly at the meeting and pressed "the importance of the (eurozone) sticking" to the 2012 pledge to consider further measures.

"It is too early to go into that," Dijsselbloem said when asked which specific measures could be applied, adding that to "assess those conditions we need the outcome of the review."

He said, for example, stress tests this year will give a much better picture of the banks' finances and how much more or less funding Athens would need to provide.

The EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund provided Greece with a 110 billion euro ($150 billion) bailout in 2010 and another 130 billion euros ($180 billion) in 2012.

The second rescue also included an unprecedented private sector debt write-down worth more than 100 billion euros ($140 billion) and there has been speculation that Athens may seek a similar measure in the coming months.

Greece has committed to cutting debt to below 110 percent of GDP by 2022, a massive adjustment many analysts believe is not possible without another outright write-off.