Stournaras Denies Asmussen Assertion of Major Greek Fiscal Gap

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras rejected an allegation by European Central Bank Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen that Greece faces a “significant fiscal gap” next year, saying the country is on course to post a budget surplus excluding interest payments.

“There is no significant fiscal gap,” Stournaras told reporters today in Luxembourg after a meeting of euro-area finance ministers. “We do have fiscal challenges -- always.”

Earlier today, as the European ministerial gathering was about to start, Asmussen pressed Greece to take steps to plug a hole in the 2014 budget plan.

“It’s first and foremost important that they close their significant fiscal gap that is there for the next year,” Asmussen told reporters in Luxembourg.

Asmussen also said a financing gap of 5 billion euros ($6.8 billion) to 6 billion euros has opened in the second half of 2014 under Greece’s international rescue program and euro-area central banks wouldn’t roll over Greek debt to fill the hole.

“We must find a way to close this financing gap and there is absolutely no way that it can be done in a way of roll-over bond or whatsoever which results in monetary financing,” he said. “This is not possible for the ECB and not for the whole euro system.”

Stournaras said the financing gap in the second half of next year is around 5 billion euros and the euro-area finance ministers had an initial discussion about it at today’s gathering. He also said all options are being considered to plug the gap and a decision would come in late December.

“All the ideas came on the table,” Stournaras said. “Nothing is off the table.”

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