Inspectors from Greece’s international lenders will leave Athens after making substantial progress on talks to unlock aid for the near-bankrupt country but without agreement on crucial labor reforms, officials said on Wednesday.
After months of often heated and testy negotiations, Athens and its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders appeared to be in the home stretch toward a comprehensive deal needed to avoid a Greek bankruptcy.
“There is an agreement on all issues except labor reforms,” senior Greek government official said. “We still have work to do but we are on the right path.”
In a rare statement to reporters during talks late on Tuesday, the IMF’s mission chief for Greece, Poul Thomsen, also declared that the two sides had agreed on “most policy issues”, with agreement on the rest expected soon.
Thomsen and his European Commission and European Central Bank counterparts are due to depart Athens on Wednesday to brief leaders at a two-day European Union summit, where Greece’s future will loom large despite not being the focus of talks.
With Greece due to run out of money next month and Europe determined to avoid fresh market turmoil that drags down bigger economies like Spain and Italy, Athens is expected to ultimately secure aid despite months of squabbling with its lenders.
Once talks on the austerity package and reforms are wrapped up, the so-called troika of European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF lenders is due to present a report on Greece’s progress in meeting the terms of its bailout.
European leaders have said this is a key assessment in determining whether the country can unlock the 31.5 billion euro aid tranche.
Athens needs the blessing of the troika on a 11.5 billion euro austerity package as well as a long list of reforms.
Talks on both fronts have moved slowly since July, with signs of progress tempered by tension and mistrust over the ability of Greece’s political brass to push through public sector reform and generate savings.
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