Greece must step up effort to find 2014 budget gap financing: Eurogroup head

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Greece must step up efforts to reach an agreement with international lenders on how to close a 2 billion euro ($2.68 billion) financing gap in its 2014 budget, the head of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Thursday.

A team of officials from the troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank visits Athens regularly to check on progress on its bailout commitments and decide whether to release subsequent loan tranches, without which Greece would default.

The latest inspection began in September but was paused, only to resume on Nov 4 after Athens provided the lenders with information enabling them to discuss the financing of the 2014 budget. But the talks have made no progress since then.

“It’s crucial that Greece steps up a little bit their efforts in order for us to reach an agreement,” Dijsselbloem told reporters ahead of a meeting of euro zone ministers.

“We need some progress before we can take further decisions,” he said.

Greece has been kept afloat by a financial lifeline from the euro zone and the IMF since 2010, with 240 billion euros of loans pledged in exchange for spending cuts and reforms.

After a six-year recession that wiped out 40 percent of household disposable incomes and sent unemployment soaring to almost 28 percent, the Greek people say they can take no more.

The coalition government argues it deserves some slack after making the biggest budget deficit reduction ever seen in the euro zone. Greece’s president said his country would not yield to international pressure to impose more austerity. ($1 = 0.7460 euros)

(Reporting By Barbara Lewis and Jan Strupczewski)

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