Euro zone ministers demand more from Greece for loan talks

Euro zone ministers demand more from Greece for loan talks
# 12 July 2015 00:28 (UTC +04:00)

Ministers lined up to vent their anger at Tsipras on arrival at their umpteenth emergency weekend meeting on Greece's acute debt crisis, with Athens staring into an economic abyss when financial markets reopen on Monday unless it wins fresh aid.

EU officials forecast a deal would be reached by the end of the weekend to keep Greece afloat, but two sources said there was consensus among the other 18 ministers that the leftist government in Athens must take further steps to convince them it would honor any new debts.

Tsipras won parliamentary backing early on Saturday for a tough reform package that largely mirrored measures previously demanded by its international creditors but rejected by Greek voters at his behest in a referendum last Sunday.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, finance minister of its biggest creditor Germany and a stickler for the EU's fiscal rules, said negotiations would be "exceptionally difficult".

Emerging optimism about Greece had been "destroyed in an incredible way in the last few months" since Tsipras won power, Schaeuble said.

A German newspaper reported that his ministry was suggesting that Greece either improve its proposals quickly and transfer state assets worth 50 billion euros into a fund to pay down debt, or take a five-year "time-out" from the euro zone.

The German Finance Ministry declined to comment on the report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. But several officials said no one raised the possibility of a Greek euro exit in the meeting, which took a pause after three hours.

Other ministers arriving for the Eurogroup session spoke of a fundamental lack of trust after years of broken Greek promises and six months of erratic and provocative behavior by the radical leftist Tsipras government.

"We are still far away," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who was chairing the meeting. "On both content and the more complicated question of trust, even if it's all good on paper the question is whether it will get off the ground and will it happen ... We are facing a difficult negotiation."

However a preparatory meeting earlier on Saturday endorsed with reservations a recommendation by EU institutions and the IMF that Tsipras's proposals did provide a basis to launch negotiations, sources familiar with the session said.

Finland's state broadcaster YLE reported that the Finnish government had told parliament's influential Grand Committee on Saturday it did not consider the Greek proposal sufficient to start negotiations on a new loan. The government declined comment. Helsinki's stance has hardened since the populist Finns Party joined a right-wing coalition that took office in May.