Euro finance ministers to discuss Greece's future

Axel Schmidt/dapd

BRUSSELS Greece's international lenders have prepared a "positive" report on the country's reform efforts - a crucial step in its efforts to secure a new bailout loan, the head the of group of finance ministers from the 17 euro countries said Monday.

Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the eurogroup and also prime minister of Luxembourg, said one issue remained unresolved -- how much time Greece will be given to reduce its debts to a manageable level.

Junker said eurozone finance ministers meeting Monday evening in Brussels would discuss whether Greece should be given extra time to cut its debt to 120 percent of its GDP beyond the original deadline of 2020.

"The basis is positive, because the Greeks have really delivered," Juncker said.

Greece, which hopes for a new 31.5 billion euro ($40 billion) bailout loan, faces a bond repayment Friday that it cannot afford. Laboring under a mountain of debt and facing a gaping budget deficit, Greece has been relying on international bailout loans from the so-called troika of international lenders -- the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission, which is the European Union's executive branch. The country is mired in a deep recession heading into its sixth year, with more than a quarter of Greeks unemployed.

However, no decision on giving Greece the 31.5 billion euro loan will be made Monday because some eurozone parliaments must approve the deal.

Also Greek lawmakers approved the country's 2013 austerity budget early Monday, another essential step toward unblocking the new payment.

A spokesman said the European Commission welcomed the adoption of the budget.

"We'll still need to analyze in detail the final version of the bill. ... Nonetheless, it very clearly meets another key condition for moving closer to a disbursement of the next tranche of financial assistance for Greece," Simon O'Connor, the spokesman, said.