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No need for fresh Greek debt aid talks before August

Brussels: There is no need to discuss fresh aid for twice-bailed out Greece before August, with a current package enough if Athens meets conditions, the head of the Eurozone finance ministers said on Monday.

“If the current programme is fulfilled, then further [aid] disbursements can take place by May which will take [Greece] through to August,” said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

“In August, we will talk about the future,” Dijsselbloem said as he went into a meeting of the 18 Eurozone finance ministers, with Athens hoping for early talks on the issue in the run-up to May elections for the European Parliament.

“The debt has to be reduced and that is precisely what we will talk about after the summer,” Dijsselbloem added.

The European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund first bailed out Greece in 2010 with a programme worth €110 billion ($151 billion).

When that failed to stabilise the economy, they agreed a much tougher second rescue in 2012 worth €130 billion, plus a private sector debt write-off of more than €100 billion.

Greece has struggled to meet the terms of this second package but hopes it has now done enough to satisfy the ‘Troika’ of creditors, especially in achieving a “primary budget surplus” — that is, a budget in the black before debt costs.

Dijsselbloem noted that official EU figures on the Greek budget position are due at end April.

Over the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was reported to have blocked an effort by her finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, to offer fresh aid to Greece ahead of May’s European elections so as to combat the rise of extremist, anti-EU parties.

Schaeuble said on Monday that while Greece still faced problems, “it is on the right track,” adding that he was confident the next aid payment would be made by May to cover Greek debt obligations falling due.

In November, the Eurozone finance ministers agreed that Greece could apply for help in reducing its massive debt — more than 170 percent of total economic output — if it achieved a primary budget surplus.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said Sunday that in 2013 Greece had achieved primary surplus of more than €1.5 billion euros — three times the target and one year early.