BRUSSELS: Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will plead with European counterparts at a summit in Brussels on Thursday to release vital funds to help his debt-laden country stave off a looming cash crunch.
European Union leaders will also debate whether to extend economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine beyond July, although it is likely they will delay the decision until later in the year.
The twin crises are set to dominate the two-day summit, with Brussels still scrambling for answers to some of the most severe economic and strategic tests in the history of the 28-nation bloc.
While Greece is not officially on the agenda, an EU official said it was the “elephant in the room.”
EU President Donald Tusk has convened special talks on the sidelines of the summit on Thursday night among Tsipras, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, at the request of the Greek premier, Tusk’s spokesman told Agence France-Presse.
The meeting will also be attended by European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the euro single currency group.
The talks will give embattled leftist leader Tsipras a chance to convince Merkel and Hollande, the key political duo in the eurozone, to accept Greece’s promises of reform in return for relaxing the terms of its bailout program.
Fears are growing of a potentially disastrous Greek exit from the euro—whether by accident or design—with Athens facing the possibility of being unable to pay its bills by Friday.
Amid increasingly bitter rhetoric on both sides, the Greek parliament on Wednesday adopted a “humanitarian crisis” bill aimed at helping the poor, ignoring apparent pressure from the EU to halt the legislation.
Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, one of the sternest critics of the new Greek government’s bid to abandon austerity, meanwhile warned Wednesday that time was “tight” for Athens.