Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sent a clear message on Wednesday that a “political” agreement must be sought, possibly at a European Union leaders’ summit, if eurozone finance ministers meeting in Malta on Friday fail to break an impasse in bailout talks with Greece.
In a joint media conference with visiting European Council President Donald Tusk, Tsipras hit out at Greece’s creditors for making “additional demands” in the final straight of negotiations and stressed that his government would tolerate no further foot-dragging.
“We will not tolerate games being played at the expense of the Greek people for much longer,” he said, adding that failure to arrive at an agreement in Malta on Friday would necessitate an attempt to reach a deal at a higher level, possibly an emergency summit of EU leaders.
Tusk politely shot down that idea during the press conference, saying there is “no political alternative” to a deal at the Eurogroup level.
“Our finance ministers should do the work to achieve an agreement,” he said. “This is the only positive result for Greece and for the whole community,” he said, adding that “we are close to concluding this demanding procedure.”
Tusk insisted that “no one is interested in punishing Greece.” “Our only goal yesterday and today, and also tomorrow, is to help Greece.”
Earlier in the day, during a televised exchange inside the Maximos Mansion, Tusk said there had been progress in economic reforms, but remarked that “we are far from talking about a success story in the Greek economy.”
As bailout talks founder, Tsipras has reached out to several European leaders including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in recent days, in a bid to drum up support for Greece. The move comes as Greek officials insist that creditors have moved the goalposts in talks.
According to sources, German officials attending last week’s Eurogroup summit made new demands at the last minute even as a deal appeared to be in the bag.
On Wednesday government sources indicated that Germany, which has had a different stance to the International Monetary Fund on several issues over the course of the negotiations, last week aligned itself with the Fund as regards fiscal demands and called for the implementation of measures to be brought forward.
Meanwhile Greek and foreign officials remain embroiled in the dragging bailout negotiations.
Greek officials accepted demands for further cuts to pensions in 2019 during talks in Brussels late on Tuesday, but different calculations about the fiscal impact of those, and other, measures obstructed progress on Wednesday.
Greece’s primary surplus target for 2019 is 3.5 percent of gross domestic product.
But officials disagreed about whether the measures agreed so far – pension cuts worth 1 percent of GDP in 2019 and tax increases worth another 1 percent of GDP in 2020 – are adequate for Greece to achieve that goal.
The IMF is said to be particularly skeptical, suggesting that the measures be introduced a year earlier for Greece to meet bailout targets.