Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sent a delegation to Brussels with a new set of proposals for Greece’s creditors following a barrage of demands to get serious about making concessions or assume responsibility for a default.
With markets closed, the negotiators on Saturday are meeting with officials from the trio of lenders withholding money unless their demands are met. The aim is to narrow differences on pension, tax and a primary surplus target ahead of a meeting of finance ministers on Thursday in Luxembourg, according to a Greek government official speaking on condition of anonymity.
Whatever the outcome, the government won’t call snap elections or a referendum, Tsipras told his team on Friday, according to a statement from the government on Saturday.
“If we have a sustainable agreement, however heavy the compromises, we will lift the weight,” Tsipras said. “Our only criteria is exit from the crisis and the memorandum of servitude. But if Europe wants division and and a continuation of servitude, we will refuse.”
European leaders from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to European Union President Donald Tusk have voiced growing exasperation with Greece’s brinkmanship that has pushed Europe’s most-indebted country on the edge of insolvency.
Flitting between intransigence and conciliatory overtures, Tsipras has spent four months locked in an impasse with institutions that have the power to save his country from ruin – – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission. The latest Greek counter-proposal is the second in June. The first was roundly dismissed.
Bank stocks plunged Friday after Greece ruled out pension cuts. That stance followed a warning by EU officials that it had less than 24 hours to come up with firm debt proposals, two officials present said. A Greek official speaking on condition of anonymity denied the government was handed an ultimatum.
With a deadline for a deal looming, Merkel told Tsipras it’s time to accept the framework for financial aid. Greece’s bailout extension expires June 30 and some national parliaments need to ratify any agreement before funds can be disbursed, which narrows the window for a deal.
“Where there’s a will there’s a way, but the will has to come from all sides,” Merkel said in a speech in Berlin. “That is why I think it’s right that we talk to each other again and again.”
Not everyone was good at hiding their frustration. Earlier in the week, Tusk rebuked Tsipras for dragging his feet on a debt agreement and the IMF team left Brussels, voicing despair over Greece’s tactics.
Representatives of the IMF, the ECB and the European Stability Mechanism are participating in the Saturday talks, according to a European Union official who asked not to be identified. Discussions will continue on Sunday, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Deutsche Presse Agentur in an interview.
“If the Greek government isn’t willing to take difficult measures, even if they’re unpopular, then Greece will never be saved,” Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who leads the euro-area finance chiefs’ meetings, told reporters in The Hague on Friday. “We’ve repeatedly explained to the Greeks how little time there still is.”
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has asked his staff to conceive a mechanism by which a euro-area state in the future could default on its debt in an orderly way that would ensure the continuity of the currency union, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday, without saying how it got the information.
With the pressure mounting, Tsipras spoke to Juncker on the phone about the immediate next steps, according to a Greek government official, who asked not to be named in line with policy.
“There is no more time for gambling,” Tusk told reporters in Brussels on Thursday. “The day is coming, I am afraid, that someone says the game is over.”
Greece will seal a deal with creditors soon, Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said in a Skai TV interview on Saturday. The government is working to have money available to meet its payment obligations such as wages and pensions as they come due, he said.
Even so, any agreement faces hurdles. Demands for cuts to pensions are a “deal-breaker,” Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said in interview on Radio 4’s Today program on Saturday. He doesn’t expect the stand off to result in the country’s ejection from the euro area, he said.
“I do not believe that any sensible European politician will go down that road,” he said.