Extended coverage: Greek debt crisis
After a meeting in Paris, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said Athens must move quickly if it wants to secure a cash-for-reform deal with international creditors and avoid crashing out of the euro.
Raising the stakes on the Greek leader ahead of a euro-zone summit on Tuesday, the European Central Bank decided to keep a tight grip on funding to Greek banks, which have been closed for more than a week to avoid a massive outflow of money that could lead to their collapse.
The ECB also decided to raise the amount of collateral Greek banks must post for any loans. The move doesn’t affect the lenders right away, but it was a warning shot by the ECB to Greek banks that their fate lies in its hands.
And a German finance ministry official dismissed the idea that Berlin would be willing to concede some debt relief to Athens, a position that Tsipras’ government has long sought.
Still, in a sign that Athens is keen to seek a new deal, Greece’s combative finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, resigned, apparently under pressure from other euro zone finance ministers who did not want him as a negotiating partner.
Tsipras had earlier promised Merkel that Greece would bring a proposal for a deal to an emergency summit of euro zone leaders on Tuesday, a Greek official said. It was unclear how much it would differ from other proposals rejected in the past.
“The door is open for discussion,” Hollande told reporters, standing next to Merkel after talks at the Elysee Palace.
“It’s now up to the government of Alexis Tsipras to offer serious, credible proposals so that this will can be turned into a program which gives a long-term perspective, because Greece needs a long-term perspective in the euro zone with stable rules, as the euro zone itself does.”
Not much time
Hollande stressed that there is not much time left while Merkel urged Greece to put proposals on the table this week.
After the Greek ‘No’ vote, gloomy officials in Brussels and Berlin said a Greek exit from the currency area now looked ever more likely.
But they also said talks to avert it would be easier without Varoufakis, an avowed “erratic Marxist” economist who infuriated fellow euro zone finance ministers with his casual style and indignant lectures. He had campaigned for Sunday’s ‘No’ vote, accusing Greece’ creditors of “terrorism”.
His sacrifice suggested Tsipras was determined to try to reach a last-ditch compromise with European leaders.
Greece’s political leaders, more accustomed to screaming abuse at each other in parliament, issued an unprecedented joint statement after a day of talks at the president’s office backing efforts to reach a deal with creditors.
They called for immediate steps to reopen banks and said any deal must address debt sustainability – code for reducing Athens’ crushing debt – but gave no hint of concessions from the Greek side towards its creditors’ demands for deep spending cuts and far-reaching reforms of pensions and labor markets.
The chief negotiator in aid talks with international creditors, Euclid Tsakalotos, a soft-spoken academic economist, was appointed finance minister.
To win any new deal, Greece will have to overcome deep distrust among partners, above all Germany, Greece’s biggest creditor and the EU’s biggest economy, where public opinion has hardened in favor of cutting Greece loose from the euro.
While jubilant Greeks celebrated their national gesture of defiance late into the night, there was gloom in Brussels.
European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said there was no easy way out of the crisis and the referendum result had widened the gap between Greece and other euro zone countries.
An EU source said barring some major Greek concession, euro zone leaders were more likely to discuss on Tuesday how to cope with a Greek exit, and how to reinforce the remaining currency union, than any new aid program for Athens.
While France and Italy have emphasized the importance of more talks, a big majority of the 19 euro zone government favor taking a hard line with Greece, diplomats said, and German public opinion is running out of patience.
Merkel’s vice-chancellor, Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel, told a news conference: “If Greece wants to stay in the euro, the Greek government must quickly make a substantive offer that goes beyond its willingness thus far.”