Brussels, Jul 7: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras strode into a summit of eurozone leaders with a beaming smile today, but was met with anger when it became clear he had no written proposal on how to save his country from financial ruin.
With Greece's banks just days away from a potential collapse that could drag the country out of the euro, Tsipras had been expected to offer up economic reforms in exchange for loans. Instead, his government said it would only present a plan tomorrow.
"You know, there was a promise for today. Then, they're promising for tomorrow," said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. "For the Greek government it's every time 'manana.'
" Tsipras came buoyed by a triumph in Sunday's referendum, where an overwhelming majority of Greeks backed his call to reject the reforms that creditors had last proposed. But that domestic victory did not appear to give him much leverage in talks with foreign creditors, who know Tsipras needs a deal soon to keep his country afloat.
Banks have been shut for seven working days and will not reopen before Thursday, cash withdrawals have been limited for just as long, and daily business throughout the country has come to a near standstill. So it was with some surprise that European leaders learned Tsipras did not yet have a written proposal for new rescue aid.
"I'm extremely somber about this summit. I'm also somber about the question of whether Greece really wants to come up with proposals, with a solution," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. Greece's 18 eurozone partners have steadfastly said they want to help Greece stay in the currency club but have just as often complained about Greece dragging its feet during months of negotiations. Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Tsipras he was dancing close to the financial abyss.
"We are no longer talking about weeks but very few days," she said. An official from a eurozone nation said that Greece's failure to bring clear proposals to an earlier meeting of finance ministers caused widespread frustration. Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos instead made a presentation and discussed key issues. "Everybody was angry," said the official, who asked not to be identified because he was commenting on a closed meeting.