The leaders of the 19 countries that use the euro are set to hold an emergency summit that could decide Greece's future in the eurozone. After days of growing skepticism, a new proposal has offered a glimmer of hope.
In the early hours of Monday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's chief of staff issued a statement via his Twitter account indicating that a proposal put forward by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras could be grounds for cautious optimism.
Martin Selmayr, the head of Juncker's cabinet, said in the tweet that the proposals that the president had received on Sunday amounted to a "good basis for progress" at the eurozone summit, to be held in Brussels on Monday.
The "Zangengeburt" that Selmayr referred to translates from German as "forceps delivery." He provided no details about the contents of the Greek proposal.
This comes after Tsipras spent much of Sunday speaking by phone to key eurozone leaders to outline his proposals aimed at convincing Greece's European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) creditors that his left-wing Syriza government is serious about grappling with the country's massive debt.
Juncker was among those who took calls from Tsipras, but so too were the head of Europe's paymaster and biggest economy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as French President Francois Hollande. Tsipras is also reported to have spoken to Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF.
Monday's summit comes just days ahead of a June 30 deadline for Greece to repay a 1.6-billion-euro ($1.8 billion) IMF loan - funds that it is not thought to have. Tsipras and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis are desperate to convince the EU and IMF to release the 7.2-billion-euro final tranche of Greece's international bailout prior to the deadline.
Despite repeated talks in recent weeks, Tsipras and Varoufakis have until now been unwilling to agree to implement the reforms its creditors deem necessary to put Athens on the road to financial recovery, including things like public spending cuts and tax increases. As a result, the EU and IMF have been unwilling to release the funds.
Pressure at home
Tsipras and Varoufakis are also under intense pressure domestically not to agree to the sort of painful public spending cuts implemented by the previous government. Syriza won January's snap election on a promise of rolling back austerity, and thousands held a demonstration outside the Greek parliament over the weekend to remind the government of that pledge.
While recent opinion polls indicate that most Greeks would like to remain in the eurozone, if their actions are anything to go by they don't appear to be too confident about the prospect. Greek media reported on Saturday that between 1.7 and 2 billion euros had been withdrawn from Greek bank accounts on Friday alone.
pfd/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)