EU finance heads agree to ‘intensify’ Greece talks

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Euro area finance ministers have agreed to “intensify” talks on Greece in the coming days in a bid to strike a deal between Athens and its creditors on labour market and other policy reforms.

Mr Dijsselbloem, who chairs the Eurogroup of euro area finance ministers, told reporters after meeting in Brussels that the time had come for “big decisions” that would pave the way for a broader deal with the International Monetary Fund on the next stages of Greece’s bailout.

Talks between Athens, the IMF and EU bailout monitors will take place in Brussels in the coming days.

Policymakers know that a key debt repayment deadline for Greece is looming in July, and that a deal to bring the IMF into the bailout programme is needed to avert a political crisis over whether Athens gets much needed bailout aid.

Klaus Regling, managing director of the euro area’s bailout fund, urged that a deal be reached swiftly.

“A significant number of issues are not resolved yet and there’s a risk indeed that this could have a negative impact on the economy,” Mr Regling said, citing potential damage to consumer and investor confidence.

“The uncertainty about the conclusion of the review may be costly,” he said. “The next big debt service payment is only due in July but it would be much better to conclude the review much before that.”

Mr Dijsselbloem, who is caretaker Dutch finance minister, said that, once a deal is reached on reform measures in Athens, further talks will be needed on debt relief and budget surplus targets for Greece for an overall “political agreement” to be reached.

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