Germany says decision on Greek debt will ‘take a few more weeks’

EPA/PATRICK SEEGER via Naftemporiki

Reuters — Greece has posted an overall budget surplus for the second straight year, even when debt repayments are included. This result could facilitate debt relief talks before the end of Athens’ current bailout program, the third since 2010.

But a spokeswoman for German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz poured cold water on any such hopes when asked to comment on a report by Handelsblatt business daily which said Berlin was still opposed to granting debt relief without strict conditions.

“No decisions have been made, there is no predetermination in these questions,” spokeswoman Jeanette Schwamberger said.  “This decision will certainly take a few more weeks.”

After eight years of tight supervision by its euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund, Greece hopes to have regained full market access and be able to set its own economic policy when its current bailout expires on Aug. 20.

Citing a Finance Ministry document ahead of the meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Friday, the newspaper said that Greece should not be entitled to such a debt relief mechanism without strict conditions.

The conditions would include that Greece must stick to the jointly agreed budget rules of the euro zone, the report said.

Officials say a well-designed offer of further debt relief for Greece could provide an incentive for Athens not to stray from the agreed reform path and keep a high primary budget surplus – the balance before debt servicing costs – of 3.5 percent of GDP, until at least 2022.