Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras struck a defiant tone as he prepared for meetings in Brussels with European leaders to discuss the cash-strapped country’s bailout.
“People have asked us to put an end to austerity and bailout agreements, to begin the process of reclaiming the dignity of the nation,” Tsipras said Wednesday in a speech to parliament. “Elected officials will negotiate with elected officials and technocrats will deal with technocrats.”
Tsipras is seeking a political deal at a European Union summit starting Thursday to unlock funds from the country’s 240 billion-euro ($254 billion) bailout package. Concern is growing among officials that the recalcitrance of his government may end up forcing Greece out of the euro, as the country refuses to take the action needed to trigger more financial support.
Tsipras is pinning his hopes for a breakthrough on a meeting with ECB President Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker on the sidelines of the Brussels gathering, that had initially been reported as being scheduled for Friday.
“These are difficult talks,” Merkel told her parliamentary group Tuesday about the negotiations with Greece, according to two participants. She said that the outcome of the talks is completely open, according to the people.
Euro-region finance ministers are urging Greece to draw up a plan to fix the economy in exchange for emergency loans to keep the country afloat. As Tsipras challenges his creditors to blink first, his government’s money is running out, raising the prospect of a cash crunch as early as this month. The country faces more than 2 billion euros in debt payments Friday, and government salaries and pensions must be at the end of March.
“We will not back down from what we promised, and what society and economy need, in order to breathe,” Tsipras said Wednesday, adding that his government expected the “liquidity pressure.”