ECB's Asmussen urges Greece to focus on reforms

European Central Bank (ECB) Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen smiles during an interview with Reuters in Berlin in this June 19, 2012 file photo. (EUROPE/DECIDERS REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski)

ATHENS: Greece should not lose time trying to renegotiate its international bailout but focus instead on getting its reform program on track, European Central Bank policymaker Joerg Asmussen said, adding that it was risky to delay adjustments.

Greece's incoming coalition government under conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said it wants to soften the terms of the bailout, mainly by extending it by two years, to enable the country to recover from a five-year-long recession.

"The first priority for the new Greek government has to be getting the program back on track," Asmussen, an ECB Executive Board member, said in a speech on Monday, adding that policy implementation had virtually stalled over the past three months.

"Delaying adjustment is risky... And it is also not free: it requires additional funding from the creditor countries, because the country still runs a primary deficit," Asmussen said.

Asmussen, who has become an international negotiator for the ECB since joining the bank at the start of the year, had told a Greek newspaper at the weekend that Greece's international lenders were willing to rework some of the program's conditions, but not drastically.

It was key for all countries receiving financial support - Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus - to implement their programs rigorously to win back investors' trust, Asmussen said.

"There is no silver bullet," Asmussen said. "Those who advocate 'once and for all solutions' - be that a banking license for the ESM, a European transfer system, or the like - are contenting themselves with a superficial analysis," he said.





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