Wednesday 26 October 2016

Junker makes last-ditch offer to Athens as bailout deadline looms


European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has made a last-minute offer to Athens in a bid to reach a bailout agreement before the deadline expires tonight, European Union and Greek government sources said.

Under the offer, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would have to send written acceptance by the end of today, in time for an emergency meeting of the Eurogroup of finance ministers to be held and agree to campaign in favour of the bailout in the planned July 5 referendum.

However, there was little sign that Tsipras was prepared to drop his repeated rejections of the bailout offer, which he has dismissed as a "humiliation" for Greece.

A Greek government official said that it listened with interest to what was being proposed but said: "Alexis Tsipras will vote 'No' on Sunday."

Tsipras would have to send a written acceptance of the version of proposals from the lenders published on Sunday, with a pledge to campaign for them to be accepted in the referendum.

The offer published on Sunday incorporated a proposal from Greece that would set value-added tax rates on hotels at 13pc, rather than at 23pc as originally planned in the lenders' proposals.

It was not immediately clear whether there would be any additional changes.

If the offer were accepted, eurozone finance ministers could adopt a statement saying that a 2012 pledge to consider stretching out loan maturities, lowering interest rates and extending an interest payment moratorium on eurozone loans to Greece would be implemented in October.

The offer would be conditional on a letter to Juncker, Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande arriving in time to arrange an emergency meeting of the Eurogroup. Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny admitted he once feared a similar situation in Ireland to the one now unfolding in Greece.

He said that in 2011 the Government was warned "it might be necessary to restrict capital outflows from banks and have the Army surround ATMs".


Mr Kenny (left) said Ireland came close to a Greek-style crisis, but accepted six years of austerity as the price for escaping its own 2010-2013 bailout.

The Taoiseach confirmed he had arranged for meetings this week for the Irish Government to reflect on what a possible Greek exit would mean for Ireland. However, he said there was a need for "very calm reflection" on the issue. He also hit out at Greece's surprise decision to hold a referendum on the bailout offer, saying it was unfair to other EU democracies.

He said Greece's approach was making economic matters worse for its own citizens, and he urged Greece to "come back to the table".

Mr Kenny said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was making an unreasonable demand on other EU members to extend today's deadline for repayment of international loans.

He said this would require votes in many parliaments, and Mr Tsipras was wrong to unveil referendum plans only a few days before the deadline.

Meanwhile, in Greece, massive queues formed at petrol stations, with worried motorists seeking to fill up their tanks as thousands gathered overnight to march for a 'No' vote in the centre of Athens.

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