Europe urges Greece to stay in talks

Of­fi­cials ask lead­ers in Athens to re­turn to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble over bailout pack­ages be­fore the na­tion de­faults on its debts.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Henry Chu and Pav­los Zafiropou­los henry. chu@ latimes. com Times staff writer Chu re­ported from Lon­don and spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Zafiropou­los from Athens.

ATHENS — Lead­ers around Europe ap­pealed to Greece on Mon­day to re­turn to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble over a bailout agree­ment as stock mar­kets dipped and some Greeks be­gan stock­ing up on sup­plies, hoard­ing cash and hun­ker­ing down for a week of po­lit­i­cal and f inan­cial un­cer­tainty.

A pa­rade of Euro­pean off icials also warned Greece that its ref­er­en­dum on bailout terms sched­uled for this week­end was tan­ta­mount to a ref­er­en­dum on whether the coun­try wanted to stay in the Eu­ro­zone. The pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Jean- Claude Juncker, told Greeks not to “com­mit sui­cide” by vot­ing no.

The Greek gov­ern­ment re­mained adamant that blame for the failed bailout ne­go­ti­a­tions lay squarely with its part­ners in the 19na­tion Eu­ro­zone, the euro cur­rency club. To pre­vent more cash from be­ing drained from Greece’s f loun­der­ing f inan­cial sys­tem, a week­long bank clo­sure be­gan Mon­day, and res­i­dents were lim­ited to $ 66 in cash with­drawals from ATMs a day.

Europe’s ma­jor stock mar­kets closed lower on the de­vel­op­ments in Greece. Bor­row­ing costs for other South­ern Euro­pean na­tions con­sid­ered eco­nom­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble, such as Italy, rose slightly but were far short of the level that would sug­gest a rapid col­lapse of con­fi­dence in the Eu­ro­zone as a whole.

Eu­ro­zone of­fi­cials in­sist that their economies are now much bet­ter able to with­stand the shock of a po­ten­tial Greek exit from the com­mon cur­rency, although no one knows for sure what would ac­tu­ally hap­pen and no one wants the sit­u­a­tion to reach that point.

With­out a deal, Greece’s cur­rent bailout pack­age is set to ex­pire Tues­day, and Athens is ex­pected to miss a pay­ment it owes the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund.

In Greece, re­tirees lined up at some banks in hopes they would open so that they could claim pen­sion pay­ments. Some news out­lets also said that shop­pers were mak­ing a run on sta­ples in a few su­per­mar­kets and mo­torists were queu­ing at gas sta­tions to fill up their tanks, fear­ful of a fuel short­age even though Greek of­fi­cials have said that sup­plies are am­ple.

Greeks have al­ready been beaten down by five years of harsh aus­ter­ity mea­sures that have seen the econ­omy con­tract by 25%. Many had al­ready with­drawn some of their sav­ings from banks be­fore the gov­ern­ment- im­posed clo­sure Mon­day; the Greek bank­ing sys­tem has lost bil­lions of eu­ros in the last sev­eral weeks.

On Mon­day evening, thou­sands of pro- gov­ern­ment protesters con­verged on Athens’ main square, in front of the Par­lia­ment. De­mon­stra­tors hoisted signs bear­ing the word “oxi,” or “no,” sid­ing with the rul­ing left- wing Syriza party’s de­ci­sion to cam­paign against the bailout terms on of­fer. The gov­ern­ment con­tends that the pro­pos­als will hurt the poor and el­derly dis­pro­por­tion­ately.

De­spite the cri­sis grip­ping the na­tion, the mood in the crowd was de­fi­ant.

“We are not here for our­selves but for” our chil­dren, said travel pho­tog­ra­pher Irak­lis Mi­las, 40, whose 4year- old son sat on his shoul­ders. “We may have been through hell these last years and dur­ing what should be the most pro­duc­tive years of our lives, and maybe we can still take more. But if the pro­posal is passed, it will con­demn our kids for another 30 or 40 years.”

A rally in sup­port of the Euro­pean Union is sched­uled for Tues­day.

In Brus­sels, in a re­mark­able speech that was by turns en­treat­ing and hec­tor­ing, Juncker said he would not give up on try­ing to keep Greece in the Eu­ro­zone and did not want to see “Plato play in the sec­ond di­vi­sion.”

At the same time, he es­sen­tially ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras of ly­ing about the bailout pro­pos­als and of ne­go­ti­at­ing in bad faith.

Juncker said that the terms on of­fer were gen­er­ous and that it was the Greek side that aban­doned the bar­gain­ing ta­ble.

The walk­out “hap­pened at the worst mo­ment. We re­ally moved moun­tains un­til the very last minute when Greek author­i­ties closed the door,” Juncker said. “All el­e­ments of a cred­i­ble and com­pre­hen­sive deal were on the ta­ble.”

“This is not a stupid aus­ter­ity pack­age,” Juncker said, but he ac­knowl­edged that “some of the mea­sures, of course, will hurt in the near term.”

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An- gela Merkel, the most pow­er­ful of the Eu­ro­zone lead­ers, called for a spirit of com­pro­mise and re­peated her warn­ing through­out the lon­grun­ning euro debt cri­sis that “if the euro fails, Europe fails.”

Merkel said Athens had a right to call a ref­er­en­dum, even though that de­ci­sion stunned Euro­pean lead­ers who had thought they could keep ne­go­ti­at­ing with Tsipras’ gov­ern­ment.

But Merkel said the other 18 Eu­ro­zone na­tions also had a right to re­spond to that act by de­cid­ing to not ex­tend Greece’s cur­rent bailout past its Tues­day ex­pi­ra­tion.

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande said he hoped ne­go­ti­a­tions with Greece could re­sume.

“An agree­ment re­mains pos­si­ble,” he said, but added that if Greece turned its back on the Eu­ro­zone, France would carry on.

“To­day the French econ­omy is stronger than four years ago and has noth­ing to fear.”

Pet­ros Giannakouris As­so­ci­ated Press

OUT­SIDE A CLOSED BANK in Athens, pen­sion­ers wait, hop­ing the fa­cil­ity would open so they could col­lect their ben­e­fits. To pre­vent fur­ther runs, the gov­ern­ment closed banks for a week; some Greeks be­gan stock­ing up on sup­plies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.