BY Fraser Tennant
Greek prime minister Alexis Tspiras has called for “realism” from international creditors following the collapse of the latest round of debt deal talks in Brussels on Sunday.
The talks between the Greek government and EU officials saw Greece reject demands to make €2bn (£1.44bn) worth of spending cuts in able to secure a deal to unlock bailout funds. Also at issue was the looming deadline for Greece to repay more than €1.5bn of loans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by the end of June.
Mr Tspiras also rejected an EU request to make substantial cuts to pensions by saying his country's dignity would not allow for such an eventuality.
“One can only suspect political motives behind the institutions insistence that new cuts be made to pensions despite five years of pillaging by the memoranda," said Mr Tspiras in an interview with the Greek newspaper Efimerida Ton Syntakton. “The Greek government is negotiating with a plan, and has presented nuanced counterproposals. We will patiently wait for the institutions adhere to realism.”
Mr Tspiras also commented that his stance was not “a matter of ideological stubbornness” but was “about democracy”. In response, a muted European Commission (EC) said that although some progress had been made during the talks, “significant gaps” remained and time was running out for Greece to unlock bailout funds from the EU and IMF.
The impasse between Mr Tspiras and EU officials has intensified concerns as to the prospect of a Greek default in two weeks’ time. Furthermore, many believe that this could ultimately lead to Greece withdrawing from the eurozone altogether – a ‘Grexit’, as it has become known.
On the prospect of a Grexit, French president Francois Hollande said there was “little time” to prevent Greece from leaving the eurozone and that “the ball was now firmly in Greece's court”.
Mr Hollande said: “It's not France's position to impose on Greece further cuts to smaller pensions, but rather to ask that they propose alternatives. We have to get to work... everything must be done in order that Greece remains in the eurozone."
Next up for Mr Tspiras and the Greek government is a European Central bank (ECB) reassessment of continuing support for Greek banks in case of default (17 June); a meeting of Eurozone ministers to hammer out a deal that Greece can ratify by the end of the month (18 June); and the end of the Eurozone bailout with Greece and the deadline for a Greek €1.5bn debt repayment to the IMF (30 June).