Greece seeks new EU loan deal in race to avert collapse

Wed Jul 8, 2015 4:33pm EDT
 
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By Barbara Lewis and Alastair Macdonald

STRASBOURG/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A race to save Greece from bankruptcy and keep it in the euro gathered pace on Wednesday when Athens formally applied for a three-year loan and European authorities launched an accelerated review of the request.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called in a speech to the European Parliament for a fair deal, acknowledging Greece's historic responsibility for its plight, after EU leaders gave him five days to come up with convincing reforms.

The government submitted a request to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund to lend an unspecified amount "to meet Greece's debt obligations and to ensure stability of the financial system". It promised to begin implementing tax and pension measures sought by creditors as early as Monday.

With its banks closed, cash withdrawals rationed and the economy in freefall, Greece has never been closer to a state bankruptcy that would probably force it to leave the euro and print an alternative currency.

Yet the leftist premier seemed almost nonchalant, albeit with a note of humility, when he appeared before EU lawmakers in Strasbourg to cheers and scattered boos.

Speaking hours after euro zone leaders, at another emergency summit in Brussels, set Greece a deadline of the end of the week to come up with far-reaching reform proposals, Tsipras said Greeks had no choice but to demand a way out of "this impasse".

"We are determined not to have a clash with Europe but to tackle head-on the establishment in our own country and to change the mindset which will take us and the euro zone down," he said to applause from the left. But he gave scant details of his reform plans, frustrating many lawmakers.

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is followed by Minister of State Nikos Pappas (L) and government spokesman Gabriel Sakelaridis (not pictured) as he leaves his office to visit Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos in Athens July 8, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis