Creditors unimpressed by Greece's last-ditch proposals

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (right) greeting Greek PM Alexis Tsipras with a playful slap. Mr Juncker warned that a deal "was not there yet". Officials say there had been confusion overnight with Greece apparently initially sendi
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (right) greeting Greek PM Alexis Tsipras with a playful slap. Mr Juncker warned that a deal "was not there yet". Officials say there had been confusion overnight with Greece apparently initially sending the wrong proposals.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

German warning douses hopes of breakthrough deal at summit

BRUSSELS - Greece's international creditors poured cold water on the chances of a breakthrough at an emergency summit later this week aimed at finding a deal to save Athens from default and a possible exit from the euro.

European paymaster Germany warned that eleventh-hour reform proposals submitted by leftist Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras were not "substantial", with France seeing a breakthrough only in the coming days.

The rainy weather reflected the mood in Brussels as a succession of euro zone ministers dampened earlier market-boosting hopes that leaders meeting later could seal a deal to end the five-month stand-off.

"I do not know of any new proposals. We do not have any substantial proposals until now," said Mr Wolfgang Schaeuble, the hardline Finance Minister of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr Tsipras' new offer is a last-ditch bid to avoid defaulting on a €1.55 billion (S$2.35 billion) payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next Tuesday and prevent Athens from crashing out of the single currency and possibly the European Union.

Discussions between Greece's radical government and its lenders have been stalled by disagreements over fresh austerity measures demanded in exchange for the final €7.2 billion tranche of its international bailout, which also expires at the end of the month.

Mr Tsipras was elected in January promising to end five years of austerity caused by bailouts, and his office said yesterday that the new offer still refused concessions on key red lines, including on Budget targets, pensions and increasing the value-added tax on electricity.

"We're here to conclude a viable economic accord," he said as he arrived at the EU headquarters for meetings with his country's creditors - the EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and IMF.

But with officials saying that there had been confusion overnight with Greece apparently initially sending the wrong proposals, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said it would be "impossible to have a final assessment" yesterday.

The emergency euro zone summit was called last week by European Council president Donald Tusk in a bid to resolve the crisis at the highest level after finance minister-level talks collapsed. Mr Tsipras has long been trying to get the issue dealt with at the political level by EU leaders.

Ahead of the summit, Mr Tsipras sat down yesterday with Ms Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, the Washington-based creditor that has taken the toughest line against Greece, and a top ECB official.

The ECB is a key player in the crisis amid growing fears of a bank run in Greece, and yesterday it again decided to inject more emergency funding - for the third time in less than a week - into the cash-strapped country to cover cash withdrawals by worried depositors.

Earlier, financial markets surged on hopes of a breakthrough at the summit.

The mood darkened when European Commission president Jean- Claude Juncker, despite greeting Mr Tsipras with kisses, a hug and a playful slap to the face, warned that a deal "was not there yet".

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan, whose own country was also bailed out, said a disorganised Athens had submitted multiple proposals overnight, creating confusion and making it impossible for the ministers to pave the way for a deal.

"So my expectation is that we will be meeting again on Thursday before the full council meeting."

All 28 EU leaders are due to gather for a full summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday where the Greek debt crisis may now finally come down to the wire.

Failing a deal, Greece is likely to default on next week's IMF payment, setting up a potentially chaotic Greek exit, or "Grexit", from the euro zone.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2015, with the headline 'Creditors unimpressed by Greece's last-ditch proposals'. Print Edition | Subscribe