German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed the Greek government to accept a “generous” offer made by creditors, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras lamented the terms demanded in return for aid.
Euro-area finance ministers are due to meet on Saturday to try and hammer out an agreement with Greece, armed with a proposal by creditors to unlock as much as 15.5 billion euros ($17.3 billion) and extend Greece’s program through November. The offer is completely inadequate and not acceptable, a Greek government official said in an e-mail to reporters.
The euro fell in response to the Greek government’s rejection of the offer to unfreeze rescue funding in four installments through to November. Nerves are fraying after a week of frenetic discussions in Brussels that will culminate in what Merkel described as a “decisive” meeting to end a five-month standoff with Greece.
Negotiations will continue overnight and a Greek decision won’t be made until Saturday, according to an European Union official who asked not to be named because the talks are private.
“We are all of the opinion that the offer is very generous,” Merkel told reporters after a European Union summit ended in Brussels on Friday. “Now one can only hope that the internal processes on the Greek side lead to all involved in the negotiations finding a solution tomorrow.”
The euro fell 0.6 percent to $1.1142 as of 5:39 p.m. in London. The yield on German 10-year bonds added six basis points, or 0.06 percentage point, to 0.92 percent.
The Athens Stock Exchange Index closed 2 percent higher Friday as details of the proposed package emerged. The index ended the week with a gain of 16 percent as investors remained hopeful that an accord would be reached. Prices in the government bond market, where liquidity is thin and trading scarce, also rose with the yield on the two-year bond falling 42 basis points to 21.1 percent, down from more than 30 percent a week ago. Greek markets were closed when news of the government’s rejection of the creditors’ offer were reported.
With Greece’s bailout set to expire in four days, the offer made by the three creditor institutions is dependent upon the Greek government first implementing certain economic steps, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by Bloomberg News. So-called prior actions are required in areas including pensions and sales-tax rates -- sticking points that finance chiefs still need to resolve.
On the summit’s sidelines, Tsipras told Merkel and French President Francois Hollande that his government couldn’t understand why creditors insisted on harsh austerity measures, according to a Greek government official.
Tsipras, who has been negotiating all week in Brussels, said he’ll defend the EU’s founding principles of “democracy, solidarity, equality, mutual respect” as he pursues an accord. “These principles were not based on blackmails and ultimatums, and especially in these crucial times no one has the right to put in danger these principles,” he told reporters.
The proposal by the three international institutions overseeing Greece’s finances -- the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission -- was only presented to finance ministers in Brussels on Friday.
For all the Greek skepticism, technical talks are ongoing in preparation for the finance ministers’ meeting, the fifth session of the so-called Eurogroup on Greece in little more than a week.
Merkel alluded to an easing of the primary-surplus target terms, saying that Greece must reciprocate with a step toward creditors.
EU President Donald Tusk rejected the charge of blackmail, and neither is the common position of the institutions tantamount to an ultimatum, according to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“The decision-making machine is the Eurogroup and tomorrow is a crucial day not only for Greece but also for the euro area as a whole,” Juncker said. “I’m quite optimistic, but not overly optimistic.”
Read this next:
- These Are the Businesses That Owe Billions to Greek Banks
- Tiny Greece’s Threat to Currency Credibility Is Why It Matters
- The Fate of Greece May Come Down to a Debate Over the Price of Milk