Greece Stalls On New Bailout Proposal As European Leaders Meet
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
An emergency summit of eurozone leaders in Brussels broke up with no plan to help Greece, but plenty of frustration. European Council President, Donald Tusk, said members have reluctantly agreed to one last summit on Sunday.
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DONALD TUSK: Until now, I have avoided talking about deadlines, but tonight, I have to say it loud and clear that the final deadline ends this week.
MCEVERS: The government in Athens, meanwhile, is supposed to submit a viable proposal in the coming days. We go now to Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who's been monitoring the developments from Berlin. And, Soraya, what happened at this meeting?
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Oh, Kelly, it was rather contentious. There was a lot of shouting, apparently, very frustrating. And just how fed up the EU leaders were was clear from the brief news conference at which Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker bristled and chafed and basically said this is just enough. And Tusk says that he blames both sides whereas Juncker was more looking at the Greeks for being responsible for this. And what Tusk says is that if this doesn't get resolved, it's not just going to be - or, like, basically the bankruptcy of Greece or the insolvency of its banking system or paying for the Greek people, but that this would really affect the European Union in a geopolitical sense. I mean - and he says if anybody has any illusions that it won't be so that they are naive. So the stark reality at this stage is that there has to be an agreement reached this weekend. They have no choice, the leaders say, and after that it's going to be talk of how to get Greece out of the euro.
MCEVERS: Do the Greeks actually have a new proposal to present this week as its creditors and eurozone partners are demanding?
NELSON: Well, they don't, not at least the kind that the partners would like to see. There was no formal written plan. In fact, what was presented today were - was sort of an assessment of what was going on on the ground as well as a rehashed version - older version - that was rejected by the creditors. And the prime minister was also seeking some immediate financing to deal with the $5 billion payment which is due by the end of the month. But few of the creditors and few of the eurozone members - fellow eurozone members - seem interested in that. They want some sort of commitment from Greece. They want some sort of serious commitment to dealing with austerity measures and spending cuts and other things that they feel are necessary in order to provide a new bailout plan.
MCEVERS: I mean, why are the sides so far apart right now?
NELSON: Well, this goes back to the old debate of stimulus versus austerity, but it's also Greek frustration with a lot of painful cuts in things they've already made. And they feel that it's just - they can't move as fast as the creditors would like, that they're not being realistic. And then instead of continuously causing pain to the Greek people, there ought to be some changes to help promote stimulus. They feel that would be done, you know, with perhaps debt restructuring, maybe even a debt haircut, you know, as they call them, you know, reducing the debt. And they want all these sorts of things, but they're not willing to do what the main creditor - Germany - and others want, which is more restructuring of the pension system and other things that would allow for growth in the - ultimately I guess you could say.
MCEVERS: Some of Greece's critics are some eurozone countries that crashed during the euro crisis and needed bailing out themselves. Quickly, Soraya, what are they saying?
NELSON: Well, they're frustrated because they just see the Greek refusal to compromise on anything. They've endured austerity after all. They've had to answer to voters, too, and then yet they've managed to pay their debts back. And so Ireland, for example, which was in a similar financial trouble a few years back, is now forecast to post the strongest economic growth in the eurozone and they'd like to see Greece do the same by actually following the rules.
MCEVERS: That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. Thanks so much, Soraya.
NELSON: You're welcome, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.