Greek crisis talks in Brussels hit by fresh blow

Spain's Luis de Guindos at the summit yesterday with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde. Picture: AP

Spain's Luis de Guindos at the summit yesterday with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde. Picture: AP

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Hopes of a resolution to the Greek crisis suffered a new blow yesterday – after the Greek government submitted revised proposals too late for heads of state to come to a decision which could keep the country from defaulting and falling out of the currency union.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras put forward proposals at the 11th hour which are to be considered by the Eurogroup – a meeting of the finance ministers of the eurozone.

The group’s Dutch president, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said that the Eurogroup will meet later in the week, when it is hoped the proposals could form the basis of an agreement which would see Greece remain part of the euro.

The late submission left last night’s emergency summit of government leaders with few prospects of making any concrete decisions on the country’s crisis. Leaders will look to the “institutions” [the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund] for guidance over the content of the proposals, which they had not had time to do ahead of yesterday’s ­meeting.

Another meeting of the Eurogroup – which is believed yesterday to have disagreed over whether capital controls or restrictions on savings withdrawals should be implemented in Greece – is likely to take place later this week.

Meanwhile, it is hoped that a resolution could be agreed upon on Thursday – when a two-day summit for European leaders is already scheduled – and at the same time that Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is supposedly due to make an appearance on the BBC’s Question Time programme.

Mr Dijsselbloem described the plans as a “step in the right direction” for further talks and said they were “broad and comprehensive”.

One version of the proposals was submitted late on Sunday night, with a second version, containing “minor changes”, put to the European officials early yesterday morning.

“New proposals from the Greek government came in this morning which were welcome and seen as a positive step but given the very little time that the institutions have had to look at these proposals, they were unable to give us a full and independent assessment,” said Mr Dijsselbloem.

He said that talks with the Greek authorities would begin “immediately”. “It’s an opportunity to get that deal this week,” he added.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Greece’s new proposals were a sign of progress, but warned that the deal was “not there yet”. “My aim is a deal by the end of the week. We are working day and night for this,” he said.

Greek economic minister Giorgos Stathakis said he believes Athens’ new proposals had broken the deadlock with the rest of Europe. The plans include new taxes on businesses and the wealthy, as well as a VAT increase for some items.

In Greece, people flocked to cash machines to withdraw money, amid fears that the country may have to leave the euro.

“Everyone’s going [to the banks] to take money,” said Yannis Nikolopoulos, who lives in Athens.

He added: “If the banks shut it’ll be a problem to go shopping and that sort of thing.”

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