Europe faces up to boomerang Greek debt chaos

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Báo Dân Trí English - 42 month(s) ago 4 readings

Europe faces up to boomerang Greek debt chaos

Europe faced the spectre of Greek calls for new financial aid Saturday as Athens' "catastrophic" finances returned to haunt stressed eurozone states.

Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou gives a press conference in Athens on May 2.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou urged "the EU in particular, to leave Greece in peace to do its job", but Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou later warned that Athens may need more hard cash support.

"We need to plan our next steps for 2012 and 2013 so that Greece can either access markets or use the European council's recent decision that enables the European (rescue) fund to buy Greek bonds," Papaconstantinou said, after G20-eurozone talks overnight in Luxembourg.

National and specialist financial media each reported that Athens may yet come calling for fresh funds from European Union bailout mechanisms, over and above the 110 billion euros ($160 billion) agreed a year ago.

Without naming its source, French business daily Les Echos said Papaconstantinou secured tacit acceptance that Greece's political backers could make another 20-25 billion available if more cuts and accelerated state sell-offs failed.

The resurrection of the Greek debt conundrum comes days after a 78-billion aid package was agreed with Portugal and fresh from a 67.5-billion international rescue for Ireland -- all of which leaves the EU struggling to close off a sorry chapter at a late-June summit.

German and EU officials each denied denied the Luxembourg talks represented a sharp deterioration, saying such talks "take place at irregular intervals" and did not represent "a crisis meeting on Greece".

Ideas under discussion include postponing the maturity of 65 billion euros worth of Greek bonds this year and next, and pushing back deficit reduction deadlines -- said to be unacceptable in Berlin.

The Greek public deficit for 2010 was recently revised upwards, from 9.4 percent of gross domestic product to 10.5 percent.

The Kathimerini daily said Athens would need "two to four years" more than planned to meet a three-percent-of-GDP EU ceiling, taking the target well beyond the electoral mandates of key partners.

"We think that Greece does need a further adjustment programme," said Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Europe's longest-serving leader and chair of the Eurogroup of finance ministers.

His spokesman Guy Schueller put the emphasis on "additional measures" in Athens, rather than new EU money being pumped in, although he did not rule out "eventual adjustments of conditions" attached to the existing bailout.

Juncker said details would be discussed among eurozone and EU finance leaders in Brussels on May 16 and 17.

A deeper-than-anticipated national recession has combined with brutal cuts in public spending to hack away at Greek tax revenue, with the country's top crimebuster given new orders to focus on fiscal fraud.

Greece was already given eased terms by EU leaders earlier this year and a new rejig would leave the issue weighing on EU taxpayer finances into the next decade.

Athens already owes more than a year-and-a-half of its entire economic output, some 340 billion euros.

Greece was due to return to commercial borrowing markets next year, but with current yields on benchmark 10-year bonds hitting 15 percent -- junk level compared to Germany -- "it is in a pretty catastrophic situation", according to a source close to the talks.

The Luxembourg talks also assembled EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn, European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet, Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, France's Christine Lagarde, Italy's Giulio Tremonti and Spain's Elena Salgado.

On a meet-the-public walkabout to celebrate Europe Day in Brussels, EU president Herman Van Rompuy sought to remain above the fray.

"This is not a day for talking about the difficulties facing Europe, this is a day of joy," he told AFP.

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