Eurozone cancels summit as it struggles for Greece bailout deal

  • AFP, Brussels
  • Updated: Jul 12, 2015 17:02 IST
Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos (R) leaves a euro zone finance ministers' meeting on Greece, in Brussels. (Reuters)

The European Union (EU) cancelled a full 28-nation summit on Sunday to decide whether Greece stays in the European single currency as a divided eurozone struggled to reach a reform-for-bailout deal.

The summit had been billed as a last chance to stop Greece crashing out, but was scrapped as eurozone finance ministers returned Sunday to marathon talks after failing overnight to overcome distrust with Greece's leftist government.

With Greece facing growing misery from capital controls and fears its banks could collapse within days, a meeting of the leaders of the 19 countries that use the euro was still due to go ahead in Brussels on Sunday.

"I have cancelled EUCO (the European Union summit) today," European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted. "Eurosummit to start at 1600 (1400 GMT) and last until we conclude talks on Greece."

The talks on Saturday ended with deep divisions about whether to trust Greece's radical Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras with a third bailout worth more than 80 billion euros ($89 billion), following months of wrangling.

Fiscal hawks Germany floated a plan for a temporary "Grexit" from the euro while Finland reportedly decided flat out not to accept a new Greek rescue programme, causing panic.

Their downbeat assesment came despite Greece's international creditors calling Athen's new proposals a positive step forward after months of wrangling on a follow-up to two previous bailouts in 2010 and 2012 worth 240 billion euros.

The proposals -- including pension cuts and tax hikes that had been largely rejected by Greeks in a referendum a week ago -- were approved by the Greek parliament in the early hours of Saturday.

Read: Euro curtain falls on Greek drama, but flaws in EU remain unsolved

'Greece on razor's edge'

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.

Economy minister Giorgos Stathakis warned the restrictions will likely stay in place for "months" even if there is a deal.

Greek newspapers expressed alarm, with the headline of the Eleftheros Typos in Athens saying: "The future of Greece on a razor's edge" and asking "what will happen in the case of the nightmare of a Grexit?"

The European Central Bank 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.

But a lack of trust in Greek authorities was blocking any agreement by the eurozone ministers, who repeatedly called for further steps from Athens to show commitment to reforms.

Italian economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan urged the Greek government to take steps as early as Monday to prove it would stick to its word.

"I would like the Greek government to take concrete measures starting in parliament tomorrow," Padoan said.

His outspoken Slovakian counterpart Peter Kazimir said it was "not possible there is a deal today."

EU commissioner for the euro Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters meanwhile that it "is relatively unlikely" the commission, the EU executive, will get the green light Sunday to launch formal negotiations for a new bailout.

Finnish finance minister Alexander Stubb said Sunday that he was still hopeful but that the eurozone was still "very far away" from getting the conditions it needs.

In Helsinki, reports emerged that Finland's parliament has decided it will not allow the government to accept any new bailout deal for Greece.

'Can't trust promises'

The Eurogroup talks had broken up overnight amid gloom, with Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem saying they were "very difficult" because of the "issue of credibility and trust".

Germany's hardline finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Saturday that "definitely we cannot trust promises" from Greece.

Germany's finance ministry has drawn up a paper envisaging Greece leaving the eurozone for five years if it fails to improve its bailout proposals. A European source said, however, that the document was not distributed at Saturday's meeting.

Fears are mounting meanwhile that the results of Friday's parliamentary vote in Athens could have critically weakened the Greek government's ability to quickly legislate on the reforms as demanded by the eurozone.

Tsipras won the backing of 251 out of 300 deputies in the Greek parliament for his reform plans, even though they are similar to the ones that Greeks rejected in last week's referendum.

But three senior government figures were among 10 MPs who abstained or voted against, and several others from the ruling leftist Syriza party stayed away, prompting commentators to predict a government shake-up.

Greece's debt is now worth nearly 180% of the country's GDP and on June 30 it became the first advanced economy to default on a payment to the International Monetary Fund.

Read: Greek PM Tsipras seeks party backing to avoid financial meltdown

A speech by a wise Greek

Greece's parliament approves PM Tsipras bailout reform plan

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