Time running out in Greece bailout deal

  • 13/07/2015
(L-R) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, French President Francois Hollande and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the start of eurozone leaders' summit (AAP)
(L-R) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, French President Francois Hollande and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the start of eurozone leaders' summit (AAP)

Eurozone leaders have been thrashing out a Greek bailout deal into the early hours of the morning, after Athens received an ultimatum to accept harsh reforms or be cast out of the single currency.

Time is running out to get a desperately needed debt agreement in place after 10 hours of talks in Brussels, with Greece's economy and banking system at risk of imminent collapse.

Europe appeared at its most divided for decades as Greece and its 18 eurozone partners worked on a statement detailing steps expected from Athens, including the enactment of reforms in parliament by Wednesday.

Hardline Germany pushed for a Greek "time out" from the euro if leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras did not accept a take-it-or-leave-it three-year rescue plan worth up to €86 billion.

Greece said the draft terms were "very bad", but with its banks running out of cash, it had little choice but to bow to demands that effectively rob Athens of control of much its finances.

"There will be no agreement at any price," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday, as she arrived for what was billed as a last-chance summit.

Tsipras insisted a deal was possible "if all parties want it", adding that he was ready for an "honest compromise" on Greece's plans for tax cuts and pension reform.

The eurozone turned the screws after finance ministers finished two days of intense talks on Greece's own reform proposals, drawn up to satisfy its international creditors.

The Greek parliament approved the plans on Saturday, despite them being similar to those rejected by Greeks in a controversial referendum on July 5.

But for the eurozone to consider a third bailout package, Greece would now have to push through new even tougher laws by Wednesday, Finland's Alex Stubb said after the eurozone finance ministers meeting.

Athens would have to introduce harsh conditions on labour reform and pensions, VAT and taxes, and measures on privatisation, he said.

For the first time in the history of the single currency, the Eurogroup even proposed a temporary Greek exit from the euro, an idea first floated by Germany.

But diplomatic sources said that as the talks progressed it was no longer certain that this provision would be in the final statement.

Other measures include letting the "troika" of creditors back on the ground in Athens, after they were expelled by Tsipras's government, and getting creditors' approval for any legislation affecting issues covered by the bailout.

In Greece, there is growing alarm at capital controls that have closed banks and rationed cash at ATMs for nearly two weeks, leading to fears that food and medicine will soon run short.

The ECB is providing emergency liquidity to keep Greek banks afloat but has frozen the limit, with fears that failure to reach a deal could cause it to shut off the taps completely.

Despite the clear tensions and uncertainty in Brussels, the reaction on the financial markets was muted.

The euro eased in early Asian trade on Monday, while stock markets were mixed.

AFP