Eurogroup raises hopes for deal and disbursement before summer

European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici arrives at the Petruzzelli Theatre during a G7 for Financial ministers in the southern Italian city of Bari

European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici arrives at the Petruzzelli Theatre during a G7 for Financial ministers in the southern Italian city of Bari

The country is in the middle of its third worldwide bailout, but its progress has been slow in light of various disagreements related to the reforms the Greek government has to impose in return for the rescue money.

He said he would "lead the fight" for debt relief because "there's no chance (for Greece) of returning to a stable economy and society in the eurozone with the current level of debt".

Euro zone officials said a report prepared for the ministers' meeting on whether Greece has implemented "prior actions" - laws that have to be passed to make the reforms stick - was positive, paving the way for disbursement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Greece has got to keep a 3.5 percent of GDP budget surplus before debt servicing costs over several years starting in 2018, according to Reuters.

While Greece and its bailout supervisors have agreed on economic overhauls, the completion of the country's review has been held back by disagreements between key creditors over how much debt relief is needed.

Belgian finance minister Johan Van Overtveldt cautioned against debt relief promises and noted Greece was already getting cheaper financing than even his own country thanks to the ultra-low borrowing costs of the euro zone bailout fund ESM.

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The IMF believes that debt relief, or at least a clear promise of it now, is clearly needed and is important to restore investor confidence in Greece, especially if the country, which has public debt of nearly twice the size of its GDP, is to return to market financing.

"I expect, and (am) working on a deal today but it won't be the end deal", Dijsselbloem said. "At the end of the programme, in 2018, we will, if necessary, put in place additional measures that we have defined".

Greece is now in the midst of its third bailout programme - the current three-year deal expires in the summer of 2018 and could be worth up to €86bn in total. As well as disagreeing on the scale of debt relief Greece requires, the International Monetary Fund and the eurozone have diverged on their growth projections for Greece.

The meeting will be the first for French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, named to his post last week by Macron, a pro-EU centrist.

Le Maire will attend the Brussels talks after a morning stop in Berlin to meet Schaeuble. He, like Dijsselbloem, said that "extra measures if required" would come after the bailout program expires next year.

The Greek government is hoping to secure a deal as soon as possible so it can lift the uncertainty that's been hanging around the Greek economy over recent months.

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