Euro zone won't release new money for Greece yet, but maybe this week

Prime among the disagreements for Greeks is protection for poorer families in danger of losing their homes.

FILE: The Greek Parliament in Athens in July 2015. Picture: AFP.

BRUSSELS/ATHENS - Eurozone finance ministers will not release a €2 billion tranche of loans for Greece on Monday because there is still no agreement with Athens on several reforms, but a deal could be struck this week, top EU officials said.

Prime among the disagreements for the Greeks is protection for poorer families in danger of losing their homes as a result of bad loans.

Finance ministers of the 19 countries sharing the euro are to meet later on Monday in Brussels to take stock of progress on reforms in Greece, which in July got its third bailout loan in five years on the condition it would implement more reforms.

The release of the €2 billion tranche now mainly depends on a deal between Greece and the institutions representing the creditors on the level of protection that Greek homeowners should be given if they are unable to service their mortgages on primary residences.

"The 2 billion will only be paid out once the institutions give the green light and say that all agreed actions have been carried out and have been implemented," the chairman of eurozone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said.

"That still has not happened," Dijsselbloem said on entering the meeting in Brussels.

Greek officials note that repossessions are politically sensitive at a time when Athens is undertaking to provide food and housing for 50,000 asylum-seekers under a plan to handle the European Union's migration crisis. Officials in the leftist-led government say a wave of evictions could boost support for the far-right Golden Dawn party.

"I'm hopeful and confident we can make it if not today, then in the days to come. Days to come are this week. We are not far but there is still a little bit way to go," EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said.

Differences between Athens and its eurozone partners also remain in how to treat taxpayers who are late repaying overdue tax under a special scheme.

There is also no agreement on the minimum prices of medicine and on a tax on private education, official said.

Greece said on Monday it would need a political decision to overcome a dispute, so that thousands of poorer Greeks would not be at risk of losing their homes as banks repossess them.

"The thorny issue is ... the issue of protecting primary residences," Economy Minister George Stathakis told Real FM radio. "A political decision...must be taken."

Dijsselbloem said the ministers would discuss this, but he expected the talks to go back to expert level - the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, the eurozone bailout fund and Greek experts.

"I think we will listen to what the Commission and the Greek minister has to say and where the discussion is stuck. Then we will decide on whether we will put it back on their plate or whether we can cut through some knots. I expect it to be the former," Dijsselbloem said.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker discussed the bad loans issue by telephone on Sunday. French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also talked about it by phone.

"Greece is making considerable efforts. They are scrupulously respecting the July agreement," French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told reporters. "I want an agreement to be reached today. France wants an agreement today."

Greek officials stress that Athens wants to fulfil all the points of the bailout agreement, but for the reforms to fly, they have to have social cohesion, which means not making life more difficult for poorer citizens.

"The Eurogroup will press Greece to find sufficient solutions till Wednesday," a second official said. "There is always room for compromise but I don't think the ministers would accept rules that are much more favourable for people not paying their mortgages than in any other country," the official said.