EU official: Greece, troika disagree over deficit

By Gabriele Steinhauser

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Sept. 2 2011 5:23 a.m. MDT

BRUSSELS — International debt inspectors left Athens amid disagreements over the country's deficit figures and how to make up for the budget shortfall, a European Union official said Friday, dismissing Greece's claims that the pause had been planned.

The delegates from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund were in fact scheduled to leave next week, the official said. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

In a statement, the three international institutions known as the troika said "the mission expects to return to Athens by mid-September."

The disagreement over Greece's finances comes after Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said his debt-ridden country's economy will likely shrink nearly 5 percent this year — much more than previously expected.

That bigger decline is set to make it difficult for Greece to cut its deficit to around 7.5 percent of economic output this year.

The troika regularly checks on Greece's implementation of a reform program agreed in return for massive international help. Greece received a €110 billion ($157 billion) bailout from other eurozone countries and the IMF in May 2010 and eurozone leaders have promised an extra €109 billion in aid to keep the country from defaulting on its massive debts — some 160 percent of economic output.

In their statement, the three institutions said Greece had to finish technical work "related to the 2012 budget and growth-enhancing structural reforms."

The departure of the troika officials from Athens brings back memories of a similar episode in June, when debt inspectors interrupted their mission to Greece until the government agreed to massive cuts, economic reforms and privatizations.

The Greek parliament, in the face of violent protests, eventually passed the new measures which were the basis for the second bailout.

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