EU offers Greece 2 billion euros in unused development funds

BRUSSELS (AFP) - European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday he was making 2.0 billion euros (S$3 billion) of unused EU development funds available to Greece as it battles a cash crunch.

Juncker made the offer a day after crisis talks between Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European leaders to shore up Greece's faltering EU-IMF bailout.

"This will not be used to fill Greece's coffers, but to support efforts to create growth and social cohesion in Greece," targeting especially youth unemployment, Juncker told a press conference at the end of a two-day summit.

Greece's parliament defied EU warnings on Wednesday to pass a special "humanitarian crisis" bill to give aid to the poorest in society.

Brussels has been at odds with Greece's new radical left-wing government since it was elected in January on a promise to ditch austerity measures and renegotiate its debt.

Greece has been lobbying for Brussels to release vital funds to help it make payments to creditors in coming days and avoid bankruptcy and a possible exit from the euro.

Greece's creditors agreed in February to extend its $240-billion-euro bailout by four months in exchange for promises of further reforms.

Athens had asked for the final seven-billion-euro tranche of the money to be paid out now to stay afloat, but Brussels wants more evidence of its commitment to the reforms.

Tsipras agreed at the talks on Thursday that Greece would provide a new list of reform commitments to its creditors "in the next days", a statement from the meeting said.

Time was running out for Athens as Friday brings a key debt deadline when Greece must pay 300 million euros to the IMF and redeem 1.6 billion euros in treasury bills.

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