EU tells Greece time, patience running out

Thu Mar 19, 2015 3:49pm EDT
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By Paul Taylor and Stephen Brown

BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Reuters) - Euro zone leaders told Greece on Thursday its leftist-led government must implement agreed reforms to avert a looming cash crunch that could force it out of the single currency.

Greece has been kept from bankruptcy by two international bailouts but now risks running out of money within weeks if it does not receive more funds. Greek banks reported the largest deposit withdrawals in a month, a sign savers are worried about the outlook for the country's finances and institutions.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras requested a meeting with the leaders of Germany, France and the main EU institutions on the sidelines of a European Union summit to press for Athens to receive short-term funds to keep itself afloat.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel doused any expectation of a deal at the late-night session, saying decisions were up to the Eurogroup of finance ministers of the 19-nation euro area.

"I want to say: don't expect a solution, don't expect a breakthrough. It's not the right setting," she told reporters on arrival at the summit. "Decisions are made in the Eurogroup and that's how it will remain."

French President Francois Hollande said the message to Tsipras would be that all sides must stick to their commitments.

The chairman of euro zone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, told reporters they would merely "take stock of the progress being made, which seems to be small...

"Time is ticking away, so we don't have a lot of time," he said. "So we have really got to get to work."   Continued...

A Greek flag flutters by a statue of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates in central Athens March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis