Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras assured European Union creditors at late-night crisis talks in Brussels that his leftist-led coalition would present soon a full set of economic reforms in order to unlock cash to stave off bankruptcy.
After two months of mounting frustration on both sides since Tsipras was elected with a mandate to end years of austerity imposed by creditors’ conditions, the three-hour meeting on the sidelines of an EU summit was requested by Tsipras to break an impasse that risks seeing Athens stumble out of the euro zone.
But while a joint statement by the EU institutions spoke of a “spirit of mutual trust” and Tsipras said he left feeling more optimistic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed no money would be released before Athens implements budget measures and other reforms that it has so far been reluctant to consent to.
The risk of a continued standoff, exactly a month after Greece secured a last-gasp four-month extension of an EU bailout loan, was underlined in different descriptions by Tsipras and Merkel about what reforms Athens would need to launch.
“It is clear that Greece is not obliged to implement recessionary measures,” the 40-year-old Greek premier told reporters, referring to previously agreed reforms. “Greece will submit its own structural reforms, which it will implement.”
But Merkel, who faces mounting resistance in Europe’s richest state to go on lending to keep an erratic partner in the common currency area, insisted that only the full completion of already approved measures would be acceptable to the creditors.
“The reference point is the agreement of Feb. 20,” she said. “We have not changed one iota. You may have heard some of this before. But then not much has happened in the last few weeks.”
Tsipras will make a much anticipated visit to Merkel in Berlin on Monday. EU officials said that if Greece did come up with a convincing plan to get its debts under control then euro zone finance ministers could meet soon to release at least some funds to help it meet pressing commitments in the coming weeks.