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Greece warned to stop time wasting and to press ahead with talks on crucial economic reforms


Jeroen Dijsselbloem talks with journalists as he arrives for a meeting of Eurogroup finance ministers in Brussels (AP)

Jeroen Dijsselbloem talks with journalists as he arrives for a meeting of Eurogroup finance ministers in Brussels (AP)

Jeroen Dijsselbloem talks with journalists as he arrives for a meeting of Eurogroup finance ministers in Brussels (AP)

Technical talks on economic reforms in Greece will kick off with international lenders on Wednesday as the country was warned ''not to waste any more time.''

The discussions involving the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Commission are to take place in Brussels but negotiators will work in parallel with representatives of the bodies in Athens also. 

The decision was made at a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers in Brussels this afternoon, after Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chair of the 19-member Eurogroup, said little had been done in the two weeks since a four month extension to the country's bailout was agreed. 

With the extension in place, debt riddled Greece needs to come up with a range of reforms agreeable to Europe to unlock cash from lenders or the country risks running out of money.

But Mr Dijsselbloem said too much time was being lost determining who would be meeting whom, and where.

''Since the last Eurogroup, little has been done in terms of further talks, in terms of the implementation and the key issue now is not to waste any more time,'' Mr Dijsselbloem said, ahead of this afternoon's meeting.

'We've lost over two weeks in which very little progress has been made. The real talks haven't started yet. We have to stop wasting time.

''Start the talks now seriously. That is my main message here today.''

Greece submitted a second list of proposed reforms late last week, including a proposal to use tourists to spy on tax evaders, but Mr Dijsselbloem said it was far from complete. It followed an initial package of reforms tabled by the Greeks a fortnight ago in the wake of the agreement on the bailout extension.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who also attended the Brussels meeting, struck a more upbeat tone, saying ''significant logistic progress has been made.''

''The institutions took the view on the original set of proposals that they were sufficiently comprehensive to provide a menu of solutions to arrive at a solution before the end of April,'' Mr Noonan said.

'No proposal has been taken off the table. The second letter is a prioritisation of the proposals in the first letter, but it wasn't meant to drop any proposals. Both sets are on the table.''

Mr Noonan said it was time to move the process on to a technical level between the institutions and Greek authorities.

''It's not the job of ministers to work with the detail of individual proposals."

Mr Noonan also said the negotiations would be centred on the office of the Greek deputy prime minister, but this was later clarified by the Greeks who said Mr Varoufakis would continue to lead the negotiations at Eurogroup.

A spokesman for Mr Noonan later said that the comment from the minister was based on an earlier understanding that when the new Greek government came into office, the deputy prime minister would liaise with the troika.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Mr Varoufakis was quoted by an Italian newspaper as saying the Greek government could call a referendum or early elections if Europe rejects its reform plans.

The left-leaning Syriza party swept to power in Greece in January amid promises to end austerity and the bailout. But it was forced to capitulate on its demands and agree to an extension of its bailout, which was due to run out at the end of last month.

Online Editors