Portugal urges EU to discuss Greek debt relief

© Yannis Behrakis
Debt relief for Greece should be at the top of the agenda for the European Union, the Portuguese finance minister said in an interview published in the Bild newspaper.

Mario Centeno urged eurozone finance ministers to move ahead even without the International Monetary Fund.

“The European currency union has very strong institutions. We can deal with most problems on our own,” he said.

Last week, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble rejected calls for Greek debt relief, saying the measure would weaken efforts to enact further reforms. The issue must be discussed after 2018 when the third bailout program for Athens is completed.

“Anyone who now speaks about debt relief for Greece does not strengthen those who want reforms,” he said, as quoted by Reuters.

Greek authorities have warned a delay in debt relief could undermine Greece’s hopes of a recovery in 2017.

“If we kick the can down the road and say ‘we will decide in two years’ about how to make Greece’s debt sustainable, then, investors will also postpone decisions about investing in Greece,” Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos told the Wall Street Journal.

READ MORE: Greece out of recession for first time since 2014

Athens has received about €32 billion out of the €86 billion under the financial assistance program negotiated with the Eurogroup last year. The funding requires tougher austerity measures including overhauling the pension system and unpopular tax measures.

Mario Centeno added that the EU's Stability and Growth Pact must also be reworked and replaced, as the current debt rules have “a lot of room for improvement.”