Greece wasn’t given debt ultimatum, insists Juncker
The EU has insisted that Greece’s creditors didn’t deliver a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum to end the standoff over Greece’s international bailout.
The denial, by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, came after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told his parliament last Friday that the creditors’ proposals for a deal on the country’s debt were “a negative surprise” and termed the proposal “irrational”.
Athens, which faces pressure to agree to painful deficit-cutting measures, wants any deal to lighten its crushing debt load. Tsipras said Greece could not accept last week’s proposal from the so-called “institutions” – the EU’s executive Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
Mr Juncker, speaking ahead of the G7 summit in Germany yesterday, claimed that the latest offer made clear where there was room for negotiation.
He said Mr Tsipras “was presenting the proposal of the institutions as a leave-or-take offer. That was not the case.”
It was only the latest back-and-forth in six months of difficult negotiations since Mr Tsipras’s left-wing Syriza party won Greece’s national election and came into office vowing to do away with the tough conditions creditors imposed in return for two bailouts worth €240bn.
Mr Juncker, often regarded as favouring more leniency with Greece, displayed some impatience with Mr Tsipras several times during the news conference.
He said the prime minister had promised him additional Greek proposals last Thursday, Friday and Saturday but they had not arrived.
Mr Juncker said he was still friends with the Greek prime minister and ruled out Greece leaving the 19-nation eurozone, but that no one “could pull a rabbit out of a hat” and come up with a deal.
Greece is running dangerously low on money. It was scheduled to make a €305m payment to the IMF last Friday, but instead took the surprising option of bundling four payments due this month into one instalment due at the month’s end.
A default on its huge debts could eventually lead to worsening turmoil and Greece leaving the euro so that it can print its own currency to cover its bills.