Finance chiefs delay new aid for Greece

Demonstrators gesture toward the Greek Parliament in Athens on Sunday, as thousands gather to protest fiscal austerity measures and to demand that Greece stop paying its debts.

Associated Press

Demonstrators gesture toward the Greek Parliament in Athens on Sunday, as thousands gather to protest fiscal austerity measures and to demand that Greece stop paying its debts.

LUXEMBOURG — Hours of talks between eurozone finance ministers on the imploding finances of Greece broke up early today without the ministers signing off on a vital installment of rescue loans needed to avoid bankruptcy next month.

Greece will get the next $17 billion of its existing $157 billion bailout package in early July, but only if it manages to pass $40 billion in new spending cuts and economic reforms by the end of the month, said Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg who also chairs the regular meetings of the 17 eurozone finance ministers.

"We have to, of course, await this vote" by the Greek Parliament, Juncker said.

He said that as long as the Parliament supported the new measures, he was certain that Greece would also get a second bailout — on top of the existing one — that will keep it afloat over the coming years as it works to restore its struggling economy. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said Sunday that his country was in talks for a new bailout similar in size to the first one.

In a statement, the ministers said that the private sector would contribute to the new package of rescue loans on a voluntary basis. Banks and other private creditors will be asked to buy up new Greek bonds as old ones mature, thereby reducing the amount of money other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund will have to provide.

"No pressure may be exerted on the private sector," Juncker said, since any sign of coercion could force rating agencies to consider the bond rollover as a partial default. Such a negative rating could take down Greek banks and further shake other struggling euro countries like Ireland and Portugal, economists say.

Juncker said he planned to convene a special finance ministers meeting in the first days of July, where the remaining questions would be finalized. He said that because of the voluntary nature of the rollover, it was too early to put a number on the contribution of the private sector.

The meeting of the 17 eurozone nations came after a tumultuous week that saw rioting on the streets of Athens, a Greek Cabinet reshuffle and days of market turmoil that sent borrowing costs spiking. A default by Greece could cause ripples around the world, disrupting the global economy similarly to the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Just before the meeting broke up, the finance chiefs of the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom were updated on the discussions taking place in Luxembourg in a conference call, underlining the heightened level of concern over the small euro nation.

Finance chiefs delay new aid for Greece 06/20/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 20, 2011 12:16am]

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