German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out the chances of a solution emerging from Monday’s emergency eurozone summit on avoiding a Greek debt default and exit from the euro before it even began, after an earlier meeting of finance ministers failed to pave the way for a deal.
“After the Eurogroup there is no ground for an agreement. This summit can only be about consultation,” she told reporters in Brussels on her way into the hastily-convened meeting of leaders of the 19 member states.
But Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said that there would be negotiations during the meeting.
“This evening I want all cards on the table,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that I want to negotiate the technical details, but it means that I want to end the political gambling.”
It has become a familiar scene in the Greek debt saga: European leaders venting their frustration at the lack of concrete, credible proposals from Athens. But the risk of an ignominious exit from the eurozone rises by the day as the June 30 deadline approaches for Greece to repay €1.6 billion in loans from the International Monetary Fund.
The same day, Greece’s second bailout package expires. Without agreement on economic reforms, Greece will not get the remaining €7.2 billion that could temporarily stave off a default.
Eurozone finance ministers concluded after a brief meeting on Monday afternoon that there was no chance of leaders resolving the issue at their emergency summit later at night, but said it might be possible later this week.
Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said finance ministers would have to meet again before the regular EU summit on Thursday and Friday “with a view of reaching an agreement later in the week.”
Ministers of eurozone member states and Greece’s international creditors “really need to look at the specifics to see if it adds up in fiscal terms,” said the Dutch minister.
Thirty seconds to midnight
The deadlock is causing growing concern in the U.S., with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew calling Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to “underscore the need for Greece to present credible proposals,” according to a Treasury spokesperson. Lew also was on the phone to Dijsselbloem late Sunday to stress the urgent need for a deal.
Athens sent two updated proposals on Sunday night and Monday morning, but that was too late for ministers or the European Commission, ECB and International Monetary Fund to study them in detail before their talks.
“For me, what is important is to get the information about what they want, what they propose,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told reporters before the emergency summit. “We aren’t five minutes before 12, but 30 seconds before 12.”
Greek Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis told the BBC Monday that the proposals include new taxes on business and wealthy Greeks and an increase in VAT on selected items — though not electricity, as left-wing leader Tsipras wants to avoid fiscal measures that would further burden lower-income Greeks.
Eurozone leaders appeared to be far from convinced. “The Greek government still wants to party but the bills have to be paid by somebody else,” tweeted Dalia Grybauskaitė, president of the newest member of the currency zone, Lithuania.
Tsipras was also scheduled to meet European Central Bank’s President Mario Draghi, who is playing an increasingly critical role in the crisis after extending the ECB’s Emergency Liquidity Assistance program for Greek banks last week.
Criticism was also being directed at the European officials who organised the latest round of emergency talks.
“We all came here for a meeting that really has no chance at an agreement because the documents weren’t ready,” Austrian Finance Minister Hans Jörg Schelling said. “This could have really been done more professionally.”
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble publicly scolded Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s cabinet chief, Martin Selmayr, for tweeting on Sunday evening that Brussels had received new proposals from the Greek government.
“Good basis for progress at tomorrow’s EuroSummit,” Selmayr wrote, before invoking the graphic German expression — “Zangengeburt,” or delivery by forceps.
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Schäuble responded: “It shouldn’t be that some unauthorized person over the weekend is creating expectations. It has to be a serious review.”
Ryan Heath contributed to this article.