A race to save Greece from bankruptcy and keep it in the euro gathered pace on Wednesday when Athens formally applied for a three-year loan and European authorities launched an accelerated review of the request. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called in a speech to the European Parliament for a fair deal, acknowledging Greece’s historic responsibility for its plight, after EU leaders gave him five days to come up with convincing reforms.
The government submitted a request to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund to lend an unspecified amount “to meet Greece’s debt obligations and to ensure stability of the financial system”. It promised to begin implementing tax and pension measures sought by creditors as early as Monday. With its banks closed, cash withdrawals rationed and the economy in freefall, Greece has never been closer to a state bankruptcy that would probably force it to leave the euro and print an alternative currency.
European officials told Reuters that some Greek banks may have to be shut and taken over by stronger rivals, regardless of whether the country bailout funds or not. Yet leftist premier Tsipras seemed almost nonchalant, albeit with a note of humility, when he appeared before EU lawmakers in Strasbourg to cheers and scattered boos.
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