RIGA, April 24: The EU's top eurozone official warned Friday that not enough progress had been made in difficult debt talks with Greece to allow the payout of sorely-needed bailout funds and demanded deeper reforms.
The statement by Valdis Dombrovskis came as the eurozone's 19 finance ministers met in Riga to discuss the worrying situation in Greece and dashed hopes that a deal ending months of deadlock and avert a dangerous cash crunch would be reached during Friday's talks.
"Progress in technical negotiations has not been sufficient to reach any conclusion during this Eurogroup here in Riga," said Dombrovskis, the EU Commissioner for the Euro, as he arrived for the meeting with eurozone finance ministers.
Athens is fast running out of money to both pay its creditors and run the everyday government, raising the risk of a default and a potentially chaotic exit from the single currency bloc.
But ministers refuse to unlock any cash without a comprehensive list of reforms that the far left Syriza government has so far refused to agree, forcing Athens to expropriate funds from local state agencies and authorities to stay afloat.
"Progress has been made, I hope a lot of progress will be reported. I'm going to listen to the institutions first today," said Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem as he arrived for the talks.
For weeks Greek officials and its international creditors have been locked in technical discussions over the reforms it must adopt in exchange for the funds, with a deadline originally set for the end of the month.
"I heard some positive news last week, but I need to know more," Dijsselbloem said.
"April isn't over yet," Dijsselbloem said.
"But the deadline is more important from the Greek side than the Eurogroup.... to make sure that there is enough money available," he added.
If no deal is reached in Riga, expectations will shift to the next Eurogroup meeting on May 11 on the eve of Greece's next hefty debt payment to the IMF.
"There's a message of urgency that we want to send. That message will be given to the Greek authorities," said Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici.
However, European officials are increasingly floating the end of the June as the true deadline for Greece, when the current 240 billion euro ($260 billion) programme expires.
"We still have time until the end of June, our final deadline," said Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kazimir, one of the hardest critics of Greece within the eurozone. ?AFP