Greece: Is this the end game?

@CNNMoney September 19, 2011: 4:04 PM ET
Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos adjusts his tie during an Economist conference in Vouliagmeni on Sept. 19.

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos adjusts his tie during an Economist conference in Vouliagmeni on Sept. 19.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Greece is quickly running out of the cash it needs to keep the lights on as the latest lifeline from the rest of Europe remains just out of reach.

Evangelos Venizelos, the Greek finance minister, discussed his country's plight with officials from the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank during a conference call Monday.

In a statement, the Greek finance ministry said talks were "productive and substantive." Discussions are set to resume Tuesday with technical experts expected to provide additional details on certain unspecified issues.

A source told CNN that the officials were close to a deal but needed to reach a final agreement on remaining sticking points.

The call came on the same day that representatives from that so-called troika were originally scheduled to return to Athens to review Greece's progress on reforms needed to obtain its latest installment of emergency funding.

After abruptly leaving the country earlier this month, officials from the troika delayed a decision on whether to pay out the next portion of Greece's loan until October.

The fraught negotiations have revived fears that Greece could default on its debts in a disorganized way, something that investors and economists fear could ripple throughout the global financial system.

Greece is expected to run out of the cash it needs to fund all of its operations in about a month without more bailout money.

The country is due to receive an estimated €8 billion from a €110 billion rescue package the troika set up last year as Greece came to the brink of default.

"The timing of a Greek default remains in the hands of the troika and it is difficult to believe that they will decide to pull the plug at this stage because of the potential impact upon the other troubled sovereigns and the banking sector," Gary Jenkins, head of fixed-income at Evolution Securities in London, wrote in a note to clients. "That said, who knows what contingency plans they have prepared behind closed doors."

Europe default risk signal flashing red

In July, European leaders agreed to provide an additional €109 billion bailout for Greece as it again came to the verge of default.

The second bailout has yet to be approved by all 17 nations that use the euro. But it was the immediate threat of a default that upset global financial markets and pushed the euro sharply lower Monday.

Stock markets in London (UKX), Frankfurt (DAX) and Paris (CAC40) fell between 2% and 3%. The euro sank 1.1% against the U.S. dollar.

"In the near-term, the market is speculating over the potential of the troika not releasing the sixth tranche of financing, which would leave the mid-October Greek coupon payment at risk," said Camilla Sutton, chief currency strategist at Scotia Capital.

How bad is it? The Greek cabinet held an emergency meeting Saturday to look for additional ways to cut the nation's budget deficit after unveiling a new property tax last week.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou announced Saturday that he was postponing a scheduled trip to the United States to help manage the country's financial crisis.

Recent talks have reportedly included a plan to eliminate about 25,000 public sector employees hired last year. Greece has been rocked by violent protests in response to austerity measures enacted over the last several months.

However, the troika is not demanding that Greece enact additional austerity measures, according to Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio, a spokesman for the European Commission.

"There are no new austerity measures on the table," Altafaj-Tardio told CNN. "What is on the table, is full compliance with the agreed targets."

Among the sticking points under discussion are job cuts and reductions in pensions for state employees, as well as the elimination or consolidation of certain government agencies.

Venizelos, the finance minister, said in an impassioned statement Saturday that Greece needs to make certain "grand strategic choices" to avoid default and "have the country stop being blackmailed and humiliated."

He said Greece must meet its budget goals for this year and next. It must also restructure its economy to become more competitive and less reliant on borrowing, he added.

Europe's debt crisis: 5 things you need to know

In a notable change of tone, Venizelos argued that Greece should not be blamed for the failure of European leaders to come up with a permanent solution to resolve the crisis and ensure the future viability of their shared currency.

"We should not be the scapegoat or the easy excuse that will be used by European and international institutions in order to hide their own lack of competence to manage the crisis and give a definitive and complete answer to the attacks against euro, the world's strongest currency," he said.

In addition to the second bailout for Greece, the European Union announced a set of proposals in July aimed at overhauling the eurozone bailout fund.

The goal is to empower the fund to buy government bonds directly from investors in the private sector. That, supporters say, will help shield nations, such as Italy and Spain, as they struggle to bring down unsustainable levels of debt.

But the proposed enhancement of the €440 billion European Financial Stability Facility, as it is known, is far from certain. In addition, many experts say there is not enough money in the fund to be effective if Italy or Spain need to be rescued.

The proposal has already faced opposition in some eurozone nations, where voters are uncomfortable with the idea of providing more support for Greece.

In a key test, the German Parliament will vote on the second Greek bailout and the stability fund overhaul on Sept. 29.

-- CNN's Kendra Petersen and Elinda Labropoulou contributed to this report.  To top of page

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