Greece took a step back from the abyss on Monday with the presentation of new budget proposals that euro zone leaders welcomed as a basis for a possible agreement in the coming days to unlock frozen aid and avert a looming default.
European Council President Donald Tusk, who chaired an emergency summit of leaders of the 19-nation currency bloc, called the Greek proposals “a positive step forward”. He said the aim was to have the Eurogroup finance ministers approve a cash-for-reform package on Wednesday evening and put it to euro zone leaders for final endorsement on Thursday morning.
The Greek proposals included higher taxes and welfare charges and steps to curtail early retirement, but not the nominal pension and wage cuts first sought by lenders. Leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, elected in January on a promise to end austerity measures, also appeared to have avoided raising value added tax on electricity or loosening job protection laws.
Tsipras said the ball was back in the creditors’ court and they should provide a deal that would make Greece’s huge debts affordable. “We are seeking a comprehensive and viable solution that will be followed by a strong growth package and at the same time render the Greek economy viable,” he told reporters.
The cash-starved country must repay the IMF 1.6 billion euros by June 30 or be declared in default, potentially triggering a bank run and capital controls.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, chairman of the euro zone finance ministers, known as the Eurogroup, described the new Greek document as comprehensive and “a basis to really restart the talks”. He said negotiations in the coming days would show whether the numbers added up.