Ireland to get bailout exit support - Dijsselbloem

Updated: Thursday, 05 Sep 2013 18:06

Ireland will get euro zone support to smoothly exit its bailout programme at the end of this year, the head of the euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem told the European Parliament today.

"Ireland's performed very well in its programme and will exit the programme, but there will be measures to support its gradual exit," he told the parliament.

"I can't give you any details on the way that will be formed yet, but there will be support to make sure that it is a good exit and not a temporary exit," Dijsselbloem said.

Dijsselbloem also said today that Greece will "very likely" need more financial aid beyond its current rescue loan programmes, which end next year.

Greece has been kept out of bankruptcy since 2010 with rescue loans worth €240 billion from its euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund. The possible need for further aid has proven a politically toxic issue in creditor countries like Germany.

"It's clear that despite recent progress, Greece's trouble will not have been completely resolved by 2014," Jeroen Dijsselbloem told lawmakers in the European Parliament.

"It's realistic to assume that additional support will be needed beyond the programme," provided Greece complies with conditions set out by the euro zone finance ministers, he said. He added that a decision will not be made before April of next year.

The main conditions are for Greece to achieve an annual primary budget surplus - that is, before the cost of servicing its debt - plus the full implementation of reforms Athens has agreed to in return for its bailout loans, he said.

''Further progress is needed, specifically in the field of public sector reform and tax administration reform," he said.

Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch finance minister, said the euro zone has made clear it stands ready to assist Greece further, possibly by again reducing the interest rates on the bailout loans, until Athens is able to refinance itself again on financial markets.

The IMF estimated in July that Greece faces a financing shortfall of about €11 billion up to 2015. Dijsselbloem, however, declined to estimate Greece's additional financing need, saying "speculation at this stage isn't helpful."

''It's much too early to talk about the character of a new programme, the size or the conditions of a new programme," Dijsselbloem insisted.

Many analysts maintain Greece's debt load will still be unsustainably high at the end of the programme, possibly requiring eurozone lenders to forgive some of their loans to Greece.

Greece had to seek international rescue loans in May 2010, when the dire state of the country's public finances left it unable to borrow on international bond markets. To qualify for the loans, Greece pushed through repeated rounds of austerity measures, slashing state spending, cutting state sector salaries and pensions and increasing taxes across the board.

The government has just reached a primary budget surplus, but unemployment has reached 27% as the country struggles through its sixth year of recession.