–Markets Continue To Pressure Greece As Fin Mins Meet

MARDRID (MNI) – Those hoping for more information on a potential
aid package for debt-ridden Greece are likely to be disappointed Friday,
with Eurozone finance ministers rebuffing questions as they gathered for
a meeting in Madrid.

Financial markets continued to pressure Greece – which is
struggling to manage a budget deficit more than four times the EU’s
stipulated 3% ceiling – Friday morning. The spread of Greek sovereign
bonds over the German Bund were wider 10 points wider at 410 basis
points early Friday.

At their widest they were 443 basis points on April 8, just before
Eurozone finance ministers offered up to E45 billion in combined
bilateral loans and IMF aid.

Thursday Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou asked the
European Commission, the ECB, and the International Monetary Fund for a
meeting in Athens next week – which he stressed wasn’t to ask for aid –
but was perceived by many as a key step towards triggering the joint
Eurozone/IMF aid deal.

“Greece has taken the first steps… it’s up to them to continue,”
Spanish finance minister Elena Salgado told reporters as she arrived for
the meeting in Madrid. Salgado will chair today’s finance ministers’
meeting because Spain currently holds the rotating chair of the European

But Salgado added that it was unlikely that anything concrete would
come out of Friday’s meeting.

“Today is not a day for decisions (on Greece),” she said. “The
decision for Greece has been taken.”

The finance ministers made it clear the ball is now firmly in
Greece’s court, with the mechanism in place to respond if the southern
European country asks for aid. If a request is tabled, the European
Commission and the European Central Bank would assess it and make a
recommendation to the Eurozone leaders, who would be required to
formally approve it.

“There are no indications that Greece will ask for aid today,”
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the Eurozone finance ministers’ group,
the Eurogroup, said as he arrived for today’s meeting.

While there may be no new decisions Friday, the Greek debt crisis
will certainly be a hot topic at the meeting here.

“It’s quite obvious we will talk about the issue,” Finland’s
finance minister, Jyrki Katainen told reporters as he arrived for
Friday’s meeting.

–Brussels: 0032 487 (0) 32 803 665, echarlton@marketnews.com

[TOPICS: MT$$$$,M$$FX$,M$$EC$,M$X$$$,M$$CR$,MGX$$$]