Greece pays off €750m early but debt talks crawl

CRUNCH talks between Greece and the rest of the Eurozone’s finance ministers ended without agreement yesterday, yet both sides insisted that progress is being made.

The cash-strapped Mediterranean state said it has met today’s deadline for a €750m (£537m) payment due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, a senior Brussels official admitted that there remains a “significant divergence” between Greece and its creditors over key issues such as pensions and labour market reforms.

The Greek government must agree and implement reforms before it is granted the next €7.2bn tranche of its bailout.

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said that progress is uneven across the range of topics being discussed.

“The differences between the two sides have been narrowing considerably – when it comes to the fiscal plans for 2015 and beyond, there has been such convergence that we can speak of differences that fall within the realm of statistical error,” Varoufakis told reporters.

However, “on the question of labour markets, our government has a particular point of view, which has not always been consistent with the institutions. [The labour market] is too unregulated, rather than not sufficiently deregulated.”

Varoufakis also dismissed German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s suggestion that a Greek referendum on the deal may help, instead arguing that the Greek government has a strong mandate from voters already.

Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem said that both sides are working as quickly as possible to resolve these differences and to make sure the details of the agreed reforms are in place.

European finance ministers are meeting again today at the Ecofin round of talks.

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