Creditors see some hope as Greece offers new plan to avert default
Greece took a step back from the abyss on Monday when it presented new reform proposals that euro zone finance ministers cautiously welcomed as a possible basis for an agreement in the coming days to avert a looming default.
Leaders of the 19 nations that share the euro arrived for an emergency evening summit in Brussels voicing guarded optimism that the Greek proposals, including higher taxes and moves to curtail early retirement, could lead to a deal this week.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chairman of the Eurogroup of 19 euro zone finance ministers, described the new Greek document as comprehensive and “a basis to really restart the talks” but said talks in the next days would show whether the numbers added up.
“We will work very hard in the next few days – the (lending) institutions with the Greek government – to get that deal this week,” he said.
European Council President Donald Tusk, who called the summit to try to break the deadlock, told reporters there had been promising developments and leaders should show the way forward to avoid a worst-case “uncontrollable chaotic Grexit” while letting experts thrash out the details.
He called for an end to the “blame game” between Athens’ young left-wing Syriza government, which has triggered the crisis by scrapping the austerity measures that were a condition of Greece’s bailouts, and its creditors, led by Germany, which refuse to keep funding Greece without being sure that its public finances are sustainable.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, facing strong public resistance to any further aid, was more cautious than Tusk on arrival at the summit.
“After the Eurogroup meeting there is no basis for a decision, so this can only be an advisory summit,” she said. Her finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, a hardliner on Greece, earlier told reporters he had seen nothing new from Athens.
But other leaders sounded more upbeat. French President Francois Hollande told reporters:
“I hope the work conducted in the past few days by Greece and the institutions lays the foundation for an agreement that should be reached as soon as possible … There are improvements, even if not everything has been resolved.”