Eurozone not budging on Greece

February 4, 2015 09:04 AM

Patrick Donahue is a reporter for Bloomberg News. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated that a diplomatic offensive by newly elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to ease bailout-aid requirements is failing to win over converts.

“I don’t think that the positions of the member states within the euro area with regard to Greece differ, at least in terms of substance,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin after meeting with Malta’s premier, Joseph Muscat.

While Tsipras has retreated from demands for a writedown of Greece’s debt, yielding to virtually unanimous opposition in the 19-member bloc, his pledge to increase spending and roll back austerity threatens to collide with conditions of aid commitments totaling €240 billion ($275 billion).

Tsipras and his finance chief, Yanis Varoufakis, fanned out this week across Europe after their Syriza party’s anti- austerity campaign swept them into office, upending Greece’s political establishment. Their demands for overhauling the terms of Greece’s bailout package have been met with resistance and alarm in Berlin and Brussels.

“We want to re-correct this framework, not to smash this framework,” Tsipras told reporters today in Brussels after meeting European Parliament President Martin Schulz. “We believe that with this framework, we would find a common viable solution for our peoples, a common perspective.”

Varoufakis met today with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi in Frankfurt, where he said he had “very fruitful” talks over the ECB’s support of the Greek banking system.

Calling himself “the finance minister of a bankrupt country,” Varoufakis sought support in Paris, London and Rome before venturing into more hostile territory. He meets tomorrow with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Merkel said she’s “looking forward” to meeting Tsipras at a meeting of the European Union’s 28 members on Feb. 12 in Brussels. She said she’s also spoken to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and French President Francois Hollande regarding the euro area’s position on Greece.

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