THE DEADLINE given to Greece to reach a deal with international lenders is today, when euro zone finance ministers meet for the fourth time in a week in a last-ditch attempt to avert a Greek default on loan payments. The session of the finance ministers was set for this afternoon and for the first time a euro zone official spoke about a Plan B being discussed in the event of another impasse. Although it seems absurd to believe the deal that was not reached after five months of talks could be sealed in a few hours, the EU has a habit of reaching compromises when all seems lost.
The EU summit did not devote much time to the matter having made it clear there was little room for more negotiations as there was a set of proposals on the table and Greece would have to “take it or leave it”. This, however, was not the impression given by finance minister Yanis Varoufakis who insisted, after Thursday’s impasse, that “the institutions are going to look again at the two documents – our documents and their own.” He also displayed an optimism that was not shared by anyone else, claiming “there will be discussions with the Greek government, and we’ll continue until we find a solution.”
But the reality, which Varoufakis seems to be out of touch with, is that there is very little time left for discussions. At most, there is another 24 hours left, because if there is no deal by Sunday the funds for Greece’s €1.6bn payment to the IMF on Tuesday will not be released. To be released, the aid has to be approved by the German parliament which is sitting on Monday for this purpose. But the German government is not in a compromising mood. Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly told a meeting of the European People’s Party that Germany “will not be blackmailed by Greece”, while her finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble claimed Greece had “gone backwards”.
And it is not only Germany that is fed up with the Syriza government’s antics. The lenders and EU governments have made no secret of their exasperation and are openly talking about the breakdown of trust in their relations with the Greek government which they feel has been taking everyone for a ride in the last five months. It is baffling to think that Tsipras, after losing his partners’ trust, has the audacity to demand a debt write-down. He must be as out of touch with reality as Varoufakis, to believe the Europeans would consider a debt write-down after everything that has happened.
In the end, after all the claims, counter-claims, accusations and brinkmanship of the last five months, Tsipras will today or tomorrow have to choose – accept the proposals of the lenders (pension reform, labour law and increasing VAT) or default. The time for a decision has finally arrived.