BRUSSELS: Greece’s new prime minister is due to encounter German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his first European summit on Thursday, after his anti-austerity government failed to reach a deal with eurozone ministers on renegotiating its huge bailout.
The EU summit is not expected to see direct talks between Alexis Tsipras and Merkel, but Greece will be high on the agenda along with the results of Wednesday’s Ukraine peace summit in Minsk, which was still ongoing as dawn broke in the Belarussian capital.
Greek Finance Minister Yaris Varoufakis set out proposals for a new debt programme at an emergency meeting Wednesday with his European counterparts in Brussels, but Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the Eurogroup of eurozone ministers, said “not enough progress” was made and a new round of talks would be held.
As Varoufakis made his case during six hours of talks, more than 15,000 people turned out on Athens streets in a display of support for the government’s program, according to police.
Greece’s 240 billion euro ($270 billion) EU-IMF bailout is due to expire at the end of February and failure to agree an extension would see Greece default on its giant debts, almost inevitably meaning that it would crash out of the euro.
“We had intense and constructive discussions but there was not enough progress at this point to reach joint conclusions,” Dijsselbloem told a news conference after the talks.
“We will continue our talks on Monday and that’s as far as I can go at this point.”
The talks in Brussels on Monday would probably be the last chance before any new deal could be put to national parliaments for approval before the current bailout ends.
New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose hard-left Syriza party stormed to victory in elections on January 25, has vowed to tear up the bailout program and end austerity measures imposed under it.
“The extension of the agreement has not been accepted,” a Greek government source in Athens said after the talks, adding that negotiations would continue with the aim of “a mutually beneficial agreement” for Greece’s economy.
But the new Greek government has faced fierce opposition from its European partners, especially the austerity-focused economic powerhouse Germany.