Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Greek Exit Real Prospect as Eurozone Hardens towards Belligerent Athens

THE GUARDIAN: Tsipras’s abrasive tone and accusations of ‘criminal conduct’ by IMF stokes more anger as EU officials prepare to gather at Luxembourg last chance saloon

Fears that the five-year Greek financial crisis will culminate in debt default and exit from the euro have intensified as Athens hardened its rhetoric against its creditors and insisted it would miss a payment to the International Monetary Fund unless it received debt relief.

With just 48 hours to go before a meeting of eurozone finance ministers, seen as the last realistic chance to reach a deal before Greece has to pay the IMF at the end of June, Alexis Tsipras, showed no sign of bowing to demands for cuts in pensions and increases in VAT. Instead, the Greek prime minister accused the Fund of “criminal responsibility” for the situation and said lenders were seeking to “humiliate” his country.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, reflected the anger in Brussels at the way Tsipras has been approaching the deadlocked negotiations by saying he had “sympathy for the Greek people but not the Greek government”. Juncker was until recently rated as one of Tsipras’s only allies.

EU officials were on Tuesday night making preparations for a crisis meeting of leaders on Sunday if, as now expected, the talks between finance ministers on Thursday prove fruitless. Amid the third straight day of sharp declines on the Athens stock market, EU leaders are for the first time talking openly about Greek default and its ejection from the euro. » | Larry Elliott, Ian Traynor in Brussels, and Helena Smith in Athens | Tuesday, June 16, 2015