Greece defies creditors, seeking credit but no bailout

Tue Feb 17, 2015 4:52am EST
 
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By Renee Maltezou and Ingrid Melander

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Talks between Greece and euro zone finance ministers over the country's debt crisis broke down on Monday when Athens rejected a proposal to request a six-month extension of its international bailout package as "unacceptable".

The unexpectedly rapid collapse raised doubts about Greece's future in the single currency area after a new leftist-led government vowed to scrap the 240 billion euro ($272.4 billion) bailout, reverse austerity policies and end cooperation with EU/IMF inspectors.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chaired the meeting, said Athens had until Friday to request an extension, otherwise the bailout would expire at the end of the month. The Greek state and its banks would then face a looming cash crunch.

How long Greece can keep itself afloat without foreign support is uncertain. The euro fell against the dollar after the talks broke up but with Wall Street closed for a holiday, the full force of any market reaction may only be felt on Tuesday.

The European Central Bank will decide on Wednesday whether to maintain emergency lending to Greek banks that are bleeding deposits at an estimated rate of 2 billion euros ($2.27 billion) a week. The state faces some heavy loan repayments in March.

Seemingly determined not to be browbeaten by a chorus of EU ministers intoning that he needed to swallow Greek pride and come back to ask for the extension, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, a left-wing academic economist, voiced confidence that a deal on different terms was within reach within days.

"I have no doubt that, within the next 48 hours Europe, is going to come together and we shall find the phrasing that is necessary so that we can submit it and move on to do the real work that is necessary," Varoufakis told a news conference, warning that the language of ultimatum never worked in Europe.

He cited what he called a "splendid" proposal from the European Commission by which Greece would get four to six months credit in return for a freeze on its anti-austerity policies. He said he had been ready to sign that - but that Dijsselbloem had then presented a different, and "highly problematic", deal.   Continued...

 
Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem (L-R), Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and Croatian counterpart Boris Lalovac attend a European Union finance ministers meeting in Brussels February 17, 2015.   REUTERS/Francois Lenoir