Greece is ready to do “whatever it takes” to reach agreement on its bailout in the next two days, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said.
Yanis Varoufakis was speaking after talks with EU finance ministers broke down earlier than expected, with Greece describing the EU’s offer as “absurd”.
“I have no doubt that there is going to be a agreement in the end which will be very therapeutic for Greece,” he said.
Greece wants the conditions of its €240 billion bailout restructured.
Yanis Varoufakis said “within the next 48 hours” Europe would find the phrasing that was necessary to satisfy both Greece and Europe.
However, he said there was “substantial disagreement” on whether the task ahead was to complete the current program, which his government has pledged to scrap.
Yanis Varoufakis also said that he had been presented with a draft communiqué which he had been ready to sign, but that it had been withdrawn minutes before the meeting started.
The Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem also said there was still time for Greece to agree an extension.
“There is time and ample room to agree on the terms of an extension. When I listen to my Greek colleagues talking about a bridging loan and so on – that’s a different word for an extension,” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem.
“My strong preference is and still is to get an extension of the program, and I think it is still feasible,” he told a press conference.
Greece’s current bailout expires on February 28. Any new agreement would need to be approved by national governments so time is running out to reach a compromise, without which Greece is likely to run out of money.
Before the meeting, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had already said he was not optimistic a deal would be reached: “The problem is that Greece has lived beyond its means for a long time and that nobody wants to give Greece money any more without guarantees.”
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said European leaders needed to respect the political change in Athens. As he arrived in Brussels he urged the Greeks to extend their current deal to allow time for talks.
Greece has proposed a new bailout program that involves a bridging loan to keep the country going for six months and help it repay €7 billion of maturing bonds.
The second part of the plan would see the county’s debt refinanced. Part of this might be through “GDP bonds” – bonds carrying an interest rate linked to economic growth.
Greece also wants to see a reduction in the primary surplus target – the surplus the government must generate (excluding interest payments on debt) – from 3% to 1.49% of GDP.
In Greece last week, two opinion polls indicated that 79% of Greeks supported the government’s policies, and 74% believed its negotiating strategy would succeed.
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