Greece will submit a request to the euro zone on Wednesday to extend a “loan agreement” for up to six months but EU paymaster Germany says no such deal is on offer and Athens must stick to the terms of its existing international bailout.
The move, confirmed by an official spokesman, is an attempt by the new leftist-led government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to keep a financial lifeline for an interim period while sidestepping tough austerity conditions in the EU/IMF program.
An EU source said whether finance ministers of the 19-nation currency bloc, who rejected such ideas at a meeting on Monday, accepted the request as a basis to resume negotiations would depend on how it was formulated. A spokesman for the Eurogroup said no request had been received so far.
Hardline German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble poured scorn on the Greek gambit, telling broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening: “It’s not about extending a credit program but about whether this bailout program will be fulfilled, yes or no.”
However, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democratic junior partners in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, welcomed what he called the signal from the Greek government that it was ready to negotiate.
With Greece’s agreement with the euro zone due to expire on Feb. 28, Tsipras said talks were at a crucial stage and his demands for an end to austerity were winning wide support.
“There were protests across Europe supporting the moves made by Greece and we have managed for the first time through contacts with foreign leaders to create a positive stance on our requests,” he said at a televised meeting with President Karolos Papoulias.