Obama en­ters Greek ‘ cir­cus’

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - CHARLES MI­RANDA in Athens

US PRES­I­DENT Barack Obama has been forced to in­ter­vene in the Greek cri­sis at the Euro­pean lead­ers’ sum­mit to dis­cuss the im­pend­ing doom af­ter the Greeks turned up bear­ing no gifts.

On Mon­day lead­ers from France and Ger­many, Fran­coise Hol­lande and An­gela Merkel, made it clear they needed a solid plan from Greece to dis­cuss and form a new aid re­form pack­age.

But Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras and new Greek Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos turned up with noth­ing but a few bullet point notes the lat­ter jot­ted down on the bed­side notepad at his ho­tel.

The note had no­ta­tions such as “state of play” and “no tri­umphal­ism”, ap­par­ently to re­mind him not to boast about his left­ist Gov­ern­ment’s vic­tory at the ref­er­en­dum that saw 61 per cent of vot­ers say “No” to fur­ther aid in ex­change for aus­ter­ity.

It was a ref­er­en­dum re­sult Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Jean- Claude Jucker dis­missed as an “ir­rel­e­vant cir­cus”.

Many eu­ro­zone lead­ers could not hide their fury at be­ing sum­moned to the emer­gency meet­ing and to hear the Greek del­e­ga­tion’s plan only to see their Fi­nance Min­is­ter with noth­ing to ta­ble.

The pair have now been given to to­day to come up with a re­form plan. They are ex­pected to ask for a bridg­ing loan un­til the end of the month.

On Sun­day, the 28 lead­ers of the Euro­pean Union will meet to as­sess fi­nal pro­pos­als for Greece that EU Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk de­scribed as “maybe the most crit­i­cal mo­ment in our history”.

Dutch Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte ac­cused the Greeks of again play­ing games as their coun­try goes to the brink.

“I’m very cheer­less about this sum­mit and I’m very cheer­less about the fact whether Greece wants to come with pro­pos­als at all,” he said.

“The only so­lu­tion is for Greece to make far- reach­ing re­forms and im­ple­ment dif­fi­cult mea­sures. The fate of Greece in the euro and the re­spon­si­bil­ity is in Athens, not here. The Greek Gov­ern­ment is tak­ing a large risk with the in­ter­ests of the Greek peo­ple.”

Mr Tsakalo­tos said progress had been made at the sum­mit de­spite the lack of a de­tailed doc­u­ment, and he was buoyed by the euro lead­ers’ “po­lit­i­cal will to give Greece a chance”.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel was un­con­vinced. “We still do not have the ba­sis for ne­go­ti­a­tions,” she said.

“It is not a ques­tion of weeks any more, but a ques­tion of a few days,” she warned.

Mr Obama spoke with Prime Min­is­ter Tsipras by phone yesterday to en­force his de­sire for a res­o­lu­tion. He had ear­lier spo­ken with Dr Merkel, urg­ing her and her col­leagues to find a so­lu­tion.

Mean­while, Greek banks and the lo­cal stock ex­change re­mained closed, a cap on with­drawals was still in place and liq­uid­ity re­mained crit­i­cal.

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