The Latest: Juncker: EU officials are prepared for Grexit
The Associated Press
Jul. 07, 2015
BRUSSELS (AP) — The latest on the Greek financial crisis (all times Brussels local):
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says authorities are prepared for all eventualities in Brussels' drawn-out negotiations with Greece about its financial crisis — including a scenario in which debt-laden Greece leaves the euro single currency or the European Union itself.
"The commission is prepared for everything. We have a Grexit scenario, prepared in detail," Juncker said after an emergency eurozone summit wrapped up with leaders giving Greece until Thursday to submit detailed reform proposals that could form the basis of a new bailout.
Juncker did not elaborate on what exactly he meant by the term Grexit.
He says the commission also has plans in case Greece needs humanitarian aid and, what Juncker called his favorite option, "a scenario how to deal with the problem now keeping Greece as a member of the euro area."
French President Francois Hollande says Greece still needs to make "credible and serious proposals" that prove it wants to remain part of the 19-nation eurozone.
The French leader spoke to reporters late Tuesday after an inconclusive summit meeting of nations using the euro.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras earlier said his government had submitted proposals, but it was unclear whether it meant anything more than the general direction of staving off too tough austerity and insisting on debt restructuring.
Respecting the rules, Hollande said, "is a condition of living together."
"What's at stake is to know the place of Greece in the European Union and thus the eurozone," Hollande said. "Today, there is no more time to waste."
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says his government has submitted a proposal for an agreement to the eurogroup and to the European Council.
Tsipras said Tuesday the proposal was what had been formulated as a national strategy by a political leaders' meeting in Athens, but didn't specify if it was a written or verbal proposal.
He said it contains "credible reforms that are socially just and include in reciprocity a commitment to cover the country's financial needs in the medium term, a strong investment package to counter big problems such as unemployment, as well as the start of substantial talks and the restructuring of debt."
He said the discussion with other eurozone leaders Tuesday "took place in a positive climate" and said he expects the process to reach an agreement will be speedy.
"It will begin in the next few hours with the aim of concluding until the end of the week at the latest," he said.
Italy's prime minister doesn't just want to keep Greece in Europe. He has a far bigger target: Europe itself.
Matteo Renzi said Tuesday that if it can save struggling Greece from plunging out of the euro single currency this week, the 28-nation European Union then needs to start investing in its own future.
"We have not only the emergency in Greece, we have a very incredible problem about Europe," Renzi said.
He said it is now time to "invest in a different vision of Europe, invest in a different idea of Europe, in a Europe focused on growth and not just austerity."
European Union President Donald Tusk says the protracted negotiations to keep Greece from financial collapse and in the eurozone "is maybe the most critical moment in our history."
After calling for the emergency summit in the wake of Sunday's Greek "no" vote to proposals from its eurozone partners, Tusk said the 19 leaders agreed to give Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras one final shot to keep his nation afloat with the aid of his allies sharing the euro currency.
"I have to say it loud and clear the final deadline ends this week," he said.
On Sunday, the 28 leaders of the full European Union will meet to assess Greece's final proposals.
Eurozone leaders have given Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras until Sunday to come up with a full proposal at a summit of the 28 European Union leaders, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi says.
Renzi said that Tsipras has all interest in coming up with a sensible proposal to stave off financial chaos in Greece and said that "I think that in the end we have an agreement."
Greece's deputy finance minister said tax revenues have not suffered as much as expected during the bank closures, allowing the state to cover domestic costs this month.
"It was a positive surprise ... Taxes are doing well, not at the level we had expected before all this happened, but not far off," Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas told state television.
Many Greeks with the ability to pay have attempted to settle taxes, loan payments and other costs, such as school fees, over the past 10 days since they have worried the money could disappear from their accounts anyway if the government would be forced to raid deposits to prevent a banking collapse.
Mardas said the government was "not currently considering" the measure and hoped to "gradually" restore bank operations and services, without giving further details.
A Greek official has conceded that the country's banks are unlikely to reopen this week despite an earlier pledge to do so.
George Katrougalos, a minister for administrative reform, told a radio station Tuesday in Athens that a decision must be made to reopen the banks, but "that's probably is not technically possible this week."
The government announced bank closures and withdrawal restrictions June 28 and extended them through Wednesday.
A cash shortage is looming, however, as Greeks and tourists drain as much cash as they can from ATMs. The European Central Bank refused Monday to increase the amount of credit that Greek banks can draw on.
The White House says President Barack Obama and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke by phone Tuesday morning.
It's the first known phone call between the two leaders since the weekend referendum in which Greece rejected creditor proposals that included more austerity measures.
The White House has said it's in Europe's interest to reach a resolution that puts Greece on the path toward economic growth and stability.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's message to the Greeks was blunt as he arrived at an emergency eurozone summit in Brussels: We can only help you if you want to be helped.
Rutte, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told reporters Tuesday he was "extremely somber about this summit. I'm also somber about the question of whether Greece really wants to come up with proposals, with a solution."
Rutte refused to say if a Grexit — a Greek exit from using the euro currency — was looming. But he said he was at the summit not only for Greece but also for the euro currency used by 19 of the European Union's 28 nations.
"I am at the table here today to ensure that the integrity, the cohesion, the underlying principles of the single currency are protected," he said. "And it is really up to the Greek government to come up with far-reaching proposals. If they don't do that, then I think it will be over quickly."
The eurozone's top official says Greece would make a proposal to tap Europe's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, as soon as Wednesday.
Following the conclusion of the meeting of the eurozone's 19 finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem confirmed that the new Greek finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, did not deliver any fresh written proposals for a bailout deal that would help the country avoid falling out of the euro.
Dijsselbloem said he "broadly agreed" that Greece needs more than a short-term financial fix.
"The ministers also broadly agreed that if there is to be another ESM program with support it would have to be a medium term program for reasons of credibility," he said.
The eurozone, he added, would first have to assess the financial situation in Greece before deciding to start talks on a possible new aid program.
Fidel Castro is backing Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as he tries to win concessions with creditors.
Cuban state media are carrying the text of a letter he wrote to Tsipras.
The retired Cuban leader compliments Tsipras on what he calls his "brilliant political victory" — an apparent reference to the overwhelming victory of the 'no' campaign in Sunday's Greek referendum on creditor proposals.
Castro praises Greece's historical contributions to philosophy, art, science and politics, as well as its resistance to Axis military powers during World War II.
"Your country, especially your courage in the current moment, awakens admiration among the Latin American and Caribbean peoples of this hemisphere upon seeing how Greece, facing external aggressions, defends its identity and culture," Castro writes.
The letter was dated July 5 and featured on the front page of official newspapers Tuesday.
Russia is pouring cold water on the prospect that the so-called BRICS nations could help Greece financially at their summit this week.
Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukaev told Russian media that the idea of providing any financial help to a non-BRICS member such as Greece is "premature and, it seems to me, not current."
The leaders of the BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are due to meet in Russia this week.
Ulyukaev was speaking after a meeting of economic and trade ministers from the BRICS countries.
The meeting of the 19 eurozone finance ministers has ended and the body's top official, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, is due to issue a statement shortly about the discussions that centered on the Greek crisis. A number of finance ministers left the meeting without speaking to reporters.
Three people familiar with discussions currently taking place between Greece and its creditors in the 19-country eurozone say new Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos has not presented fresh written proposals over how to win support for a financial bailout.
The three eurozone sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, said Tsakalotos gave an oral update of the financial situation in Greece instead. He had been widely tipped to present reform proposals in written form.
No further details were available.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to arrive at an emergency summit of eurozone leaders later as his country struggles to forge a bailout deal that would ease the pressure on the country's shuttered banks and prevent a Greek exit from the euro.
__ By Raf Casert in Brussels
Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan says Greece should do something relatively simple to turn things around. Take a look at his nation.
Arriving at an emergency meeting of eurozone finance ministers to discuss the Greek crisis, Noonan said Ireland was also able to work with its debt load to make it more manageable, He suggested Greece could also come forward with debt proposals, even if they would be different from Ireland's.
"There is not a one size fits all that we are looking at," he said.
For many, Ireland is the poster child of the austerity prescription laid out by bailout creditors over the past few years.
Ireland is forecast to post the strongest economic growth in the 28-nation EU this year.
Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb has summed up just what is on the line financially for his small country in the Greek negotiations — a whopping 10 percent of Finland's annual budget.
On his way into a meeting with his peers in the 19-country eurozone, Stubb said Greece owes Finland 5 billion euros — a big dent in its budget of 50 billion.
It's also equivalent to 2.5 percent of Finland's annual GDP, he said.
"So a lot is obviously at stake," he said.
Stubb says the meeting is not aimed at kicking Greece out of the euro, but that it's up to Greece's leaders to come up with credible proposals to secure a bailout deal.
"We need to see some political will, a change of attitude on the part of the Greek government in order for this to work," Stubb says.
Lithuania only started using the euro currency this year and doesn't want the 19-country single currency club to start losing members now.
Lithuanian Finance Minister Rimantas Sadzius said a Greek exit "is not an option for us," as arrived for the meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels to discuss a possible new bailout deal for Athens.
Sadzius said he believes common ground can be found. Greece's new finance, Euclid Tsakalotos is set to unveil new proposals to his peers in the eurozone.
"In politics, there is always room for compromise," said Sadzius. "We believe that the eurozone should expand rather than contract."
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says Berlin still opposes an actual debt cut for Greece as he arrived at a meeting with his counterparts in the 19-country eurozone.
Schaeuble said he's waiting with interest to hear the ideas of the Greek government but stressed that without an aid program, there is "no possibility to help Greece within the framework of the eurozone."
Germany is reluctant to consider a debt cut for Greece. The Greek government wants debt relief for the country to be near the top of bailout discussions. That doesn't necessarily mean an actual reduction in the amount owed — it could take the form of extending the country's repayment schedule.
Schaeuble said actual debt cuts are banned under European rules.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone's top official, says the pressure is on Greece to come up with fresh economic proposals that meet the requirements of its partners in the single currency bloc.
Arriving for talks with his peers in the 19-country eurozone, Dijsselbloem said the Greek government has "a major interest" in bringing forward "serious and credible" proposals that are needed if Greece is to get another bailout.
Greece is running out of time to secure a deal that will help its banks reopen and avoid a disorderly euro exit.
The eurogroup president also said the resignation of Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's outspoken finance minister over the past few months of the protracted bailout discussions, would not necessarily make a difference. Varoufakis has been replaced by the more mild-mannered Euclid Tsakalotos.
"It is not about persons," Dijsselbloem said. "It is about where we stand after the 'no' referendum."
If new Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos has revised proposals for a fresh bailout of his debt-ridden nation to show his peers in the 19-country eurozone, he was keeping them close to his chest as he arrived for talks in Brussels.
A day after being sworn in to replace Yanis Varoufakis, who quit after Sunday's referendum 'no' vote, Tsakalotos hurried into the meeting venue without speaking to reporters.
On Monday, he conceded: "I won't hide from you that I am very nervous and very anxious."
And in something of an understatement, Tsakalotos said after being sworn in, "I am not taking over at the easiest moment in Greek history."
Dutch State Secretary for Finance Eric Wiebes says Greek representatives need to come up with a serious package at the meeting of eurozone finance ministers if fresh bailout talks are to make any progress.
"I hope they bring a very serious proposal in their luggage," Wiebes said as he arrived an hour early for the start of the meeting in Brussels. "Because it is only worth continuing to talk on the basis of a very serious proposal. I can't imagine the proposal would be less serious than the proposal that was already on the table."
Wiebes, a junior Dutch minister, attends the eurogroup meetings because Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem is the group's chairman.
The Greek government is expected to make fresh proposals at the meeting in order to secure a bailout deal so it avoids leaving the euro.
Rarely, if ever, has any leader gone to Brussels for a summit with as much as stake as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
With his country on its economic knees and facing the prospect of a disorderly exit from the euro, Tsipras knows that Greece's future for years if not decades could hinge on how talks later pan out.
Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital, spelled out what's at stake.
"The Greek economy is in danger not just of imploding but of falling into a nightmarish dysfunctionality where what we consider as the normal economic functions of society collapse," he said. "This is a recipe for anarchy and social disorder."
While Europe's leaders headed for Brussels for what could be a make-or-break summit for Greece's future in the euro, Greeks continued to struggle with the strict controls on their bank withdrawals.
Amid signs that the banks were fast running out of cash, there are growing concerns about what will happen to people's savings. Banks have been shuttered for over a week and cash withdrawals have been limited to 60 euros a day.
Giorgos Stathopoulos, a 46-year-old civil servant said many ATMs had run out of 20-euro notes, effectively reducing the daily limit to 50 euros.
"The problem is for those of us who don't have big deposits, what happens with our savings, that is the concern," he said.
And Giorgos Kafkaris, a 77-year-old pensioner, is hopeful about improvements. "I believe something better will happen," he said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has tempered expectations of a swift solution to the Greek crisis, saying "a solution is not going to appear overnight."
Juncker told lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that any solution later at a meeting of the eurozone's 19 leaders in Brussels would likely be "overly simplistic."
He said one of the purposes later is to "restore order to the situation." He also displayed his anger at attacks on the European Union's executive branch.
"I think it is unacceptable for the European Commission to be deemed terrorists by the Greek government," he added.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and new finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos are on their way to Brussels for meetings aimed at restarting bailout talks.
"Quite clearly the ball lies in the court of the Greek government," said Juncker.
European stock markets have opened solidly ahead of an emergency meeting of eurozone leaders in Brussels, where Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to reveal fresh proposals to the country's creditors.
Germany's DAX index was up 0.4 percent while the Stoxx 50 index of leading European shares rose 0.2 percent.
With Greece's banks shuttered and cash reserves run dry, time is running out for a bailout deal. Some investors hope the resignation of Yanis Varoufakis on Monday may well help smooth discussions.
Still, few are optimistic and many analysts think that a Greek exit from the euro remains possible.
"It seems untenable that Greece can slide out of the Eurozone with barely a whimper being heard in financial markets, but right now that's what it looks like," said Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says his country will do everything possible to keep Greece in the eurozone, saying its exit would be a "risk for global economic growth."
In an interview with the RTL radio network Tuesday, Valls denied that Greece's "no" vote was a rejection of Europe or its values but rather an expression of pride. He called on Greece's prime minister to put forward a plan and said France would be open to rescheduling Greece's debt.
Valls says: "The eurozone must stay coherent, reliable. Europe is not just a currency. It is a conception of the world."
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is headed Tuesday to Brussels to negotiate a rescue deal with European lenders.