France backs Greek austerity delay - at a price

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France backs Greek austerity delay - at a price

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Greece must deliver on its reform promises. That was the message from French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici who was in Athens on Thursday to meet Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and key members of his cabinet.

France has said it will back Greece’s request for an extra two years to reduce its public deficit, but in return needs to see action not just words.

At the same time the International Monetary Fund said there are good arguments for granting that delay.

The question of whether Greece will need a third bailout package from the eurozone was also in play on Thursday, and the man who represents Greece at the IMF said it will. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Thanos Catsambas said Greece’s European creditors will have to find the money for that.

The Greek finance minister and an IMF spokesman said right now they are focused only the spending cuts needed to conclude the second bailout.

But more austerity measures risk pushing Greece into an even steeper spiral of economic decline.

The scale of the problem is illustrated by the latest Greek unemployment figures. As the economy slows the jobless rate jumped to 23.6 percent of the workforce in the second quarter of this year, up from 22.6 percent in the first quarter.

The young are suffering worst. For under 24-year-olds the unemployment rate was 53.9 percent.