EU Commission welcomes Greek list as 'valid starting point'
BRUSSELS (AP) An official at the European Union's executive branch said Tuesday that the list of reform measures Greece has sent to its creditors in order to get final approval for a 4-month bailout extension "is sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point."
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said the Commission was "notably encouraged by the strong commitment to combat tax evasion and corruption." The official also said the arrival of the list was "preceded by constructive exchanges over the weekend between the Greek authorities and representatives of the Commission and the other institutions."
The positive soundings have helped Greek shares rally strongly Tuesday, with the main stock index up 6.4 percent in late-morning trading.
Caught between its campaign pledges and pressure from creditors, Greece's left-wing Syriza government delivered the list on the cusp of Monday night's deadline. The government was asked to present a list last Friday at a meeting of the 19 finance ministers of the eurozone so its bailout request could be met.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the eurogroup, told The Associated Press, that he received the list last night "on time" and that "it is being assessed at the moment by the institutions." A teleconference of the eurozone finance ministers could take place later, he added, if the representatives from the Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund are positive on the reform plans.
Dijsselbloem hoped that developments Tuesday will "contribute to restoring trust between all parties and help to get the recovery in Greece back on track."
"It's crucial to stabilize the situation in Greece, allowing us time to work on future cooperation with Greece and bridging this period," Dijsselbloem told EU legislators.
Greek government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said that the list of reforms was based on the governing Syriza party's campaign pledge to address the "humanitarian crisis." Reforms are to focus on curbing tax evasion, corruption, smuggling and excessive bureaucracy while also addressing poverty caused by a six-year recession.
"We have moved ahead with what we promised before the elections and after the elections. This is not a speed race but a distance race," said Sakellaridis.
A Syriza official in Brussels said that "immediate priority" would be given to the settling of overdue debts, the protection of people with mortgage arrears as well as the ending of foreclosures of first residencies.
Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.
Raf Casert can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert