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Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has called for an emergency summit of EU leaders this month if the bloc’s finance ministers fail to reach an agreement over the country’s bailout at a meeting on Friday.
Following talks with EU council president Donald Tusk in Athens on Wednesday, Mr Tsipras said the “endless” bailout negotiations must reach a conclusion by Easter to inject rescue funds into the struggling economy.
Eurozone finance ministers will be meeting to discuss Greece’s second bailout review in Malta on Friday. A breakthrough would allow creditors to pave the way for a release of €6bn in rescue cash to help the country avoid defaulting on its creditors in July.
Greek officials have been in Brussels for crunch talks with their bailout partners this week in an attempt to bridge differences over the pension and tax reforms being asked of the left-wing government.
Last night, head of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the talks had “made good progress”.
Mr Tsipras also struck a positive note on the talks saying an agreement was just a “breath away”.
Still, if the Eurogroup failed to sign off on Athens’ second review in three days’ time, Mr Tsipras has asked Mr Tusk to convene an emergency summit later this month.
“I think the initiative will have to be taken at the higher level to have a positive outcome before Easter, in any case within April, even if this means calling a euro-area summit. But this endless negotiation must come to an end”, said Mr Tsipras.
Mr Tusk, who was instrumental in bringing Greece back from the brink of a euro exit in 2015, said he would not comment on the prospect of a no deal on Friday.
There was “no political or substantial alternative” to a Eurogroup deal, said the former Polish prime minister.
“Our finance ministers should do the work to achieve an agreement. This is the only positive result for Greece and for the whole community. We are really close to this agreement”, said Mr Tusk.
Greece’s €86bn bailout has been beset by differences between the EU and the International Monetary Fund over the level of reforms and budget targets baked into the three-year bailout.
Without naming the IMF, Mr Tsipras hit out at the last minute demands being placed on the country every time an agreement was close.
“Some people are trying to hurt our recovery and bring a negative scenario back to the table for Greece and Europe during a sensitive time”, said the Syriza leader.
Despite the standoff, creditors are unlikely to withhold the funds that would see Greece defaulting on the IMF, ECB, and private creditors this summer, said Mujtaba Rahman at Eurasia Group.
“There will have to be a crisis of sorts before the various sides can come to an agreement”, said Mr Rahman.
“But we should not lose sight of the big picture or misinterpret recent posturing from Tsipras, Berlin or the IMF. Even in a worst-case scenario, Greece is still likely to receive a disbursement for debt repayments from the ESM.”
Image via ANA