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Greece in race against time to avoid default
Last Friday, U.S. rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit score of nine of the 17 countries in the eurozone. Nonetheless, Spain, one of the countries hit by the downgrade, successfully auctioned off euro4.9 billion ($6.21 billion) in short-term debt at sharply reduced interest rates Tuesday, an indication that investor sentiment had not been dented. Portugal, another S&P target, also on Tuesday secured an agreement with trades unions and employers on a package of labor reforms aimed at reversing the country’s steep economic decline.
Greece also raised euro1.625 billion ($2.06 billion) in short-term debt, with its 13-week treasury bills selling at an interest rate of 4.64 percent, marginally lower than the 4.68 percent in the last such auction in December.
At the Brussels-based Commission, the missions to Greece are seen as one of the most taxing assignments. Officials joke that with the troika trips to Greece, one never knows when they will end, be interrupted, or restarted. Technical experts work in shifts, with a second group flying in once the first batch has reached its limits. Nonetheless, Europe remains determined to reach a solution.
“We have not given up on Greece at all,” Marco Buti, the head of the Commission’s economic affairs division, which supplies the troika experts, said in Brussels Tuesday. “Actually we are working very very hard to make sure the Greeks embrace the right policies.”
• Gabriele Steinhauser reported from Brussels. Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this story.
By Brahma Chellaney
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