Greece pushes for urgent Europe bailout deal

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Media captionYanis Varoufakis says it is important that "good progress" should be "solidified"

Greek ministers have launched a concerted effort to persuade European officials to release more bailout money as the government runs out of cash.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis first met his French counterpart before visiting Brussels, while colleagues headed for the European Central Bank.

The EU and IMF will not release €7.2bn (£5.3bn; $8bn) until they are satisfied with Greek plans for economic reform.

The EU has now slashed its 2015 growth forecast for Greece from 2.5% to 0.5%.

The Greek government is desperate to reach a deal with its international creditors before a scheduled €1bn debt interest repayment to the IMF on 12 May, but the two sides have yet to agree on labour reforms and pensions.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he doubted whether a deal could be reached in time for a Eurogroup meeting on 11 May.

"I'm somewhat sceptical whether that'll be possible by Monday. But I'm not ruling it out," he said.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the phone on Monday night, but a Greek official said only that they had exchanged views on the relevant issues.

As his government pushed for a compromise, EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said that "in light of the persistent uncertainty", revising the forecast for Greece's growth had been unavoidable.

EU's stormy forecast for Greece

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Image caption Communists shout anti-austerity slogans in Athens at a May Day rally
  • Gross public debt: 177.1% in 2014; 180.2% in 2015; 173.5% in 2016
  • Growth in GDP: 0.8% in 2014; 0.5% in 2015; 2.9% in 2016
  • Unemployment: 26.5% in 2014; 25.6% in 2015; 23.2% in 2016

Spring forecast for whole of EU

Mr Varoufakis was recently removed from Greece's negotiating team amid reports that eurozone counterparts were unhappy with his abrasive style.

But he played a key role in the Greek diplomatic campaign on Tuesday, first meeting French Finance Minister Michel Sapin in Paris before talks with Mr Moscovici in Brussels.

Acknowledging the awkward relations with his EU counterparts, Mr Varoufakis said communicating was difficult: "There are many of us and we can't discuss amongst one another."

Later, in Brussels, he said it was important that the "good progress that has been made is solidified and it yields very quick successive moves in the direction of bridging the remaining part of the gap".

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Image caption EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said everyone was looking for progress before 11 May

Euclid Tsakalotos, who took over as lead negotiator last week, and Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis were due to meet ECB head Mario Draghi in Frankfurt later.

As Greek ministers launched their push for a deal, officials in Athens told Reuters that they were willing to move ahead with two big asset sales - a €1.2bn deal with German operator Fraport to run regional Greek airports and the re-opening of bidding for a 51% stake in the biggest Greek port, at Piraeus.

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