Eurozone finance ministers and the Greek government reached an agreement on Monday to begin negotiations over the much-needed overhauls in exchange for bailout payments. It is a positive sign ahead of a meeting this week between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, who have taken contrasting positions on debt relief toward Athens.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) board remains divided over assessment of Greece’s fiscal performance and debt sustainability and its participation remains unclear. The IMF, which has not yet said whether it would join a third bailout for the country, has argued for some measure of debt relief for Athens. Berlin and many other eurozone members have chafed at cutting Greece any slack, reluctant to seek taxpayer support for more aid.
With elections due in France, Germany and the Netherlands this year, the country’s bailout is threatening to become a major political issue across the region. European officials are particularly eager to head off another full-blown crisis if only to avoid giving succor to far-right parties in those polls.
Representatives of Greece’s main creditors will “go back to Athens in the very short term,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the Eurogroup, which brings together the finance ministers of the 19-nation eurozone, said on Monday.
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