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Yanis Varoufakis
Image: Reuters/F. Lenoir

Varoufakis: Athens given 'clearly unviable' deal

June 26, 2015

Greece's outspoken finance minister has said that his government has "bent over backwards" to please its creditors. Eurozone leaders have put pressure on their top economists to finalize a deal over the weekend.


"The Greek side has bent over backwards to accommodate some rather strange demands by the institutions," Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told Irish radio station RTE on Friday, saying Athens had been handed a "clearly unviable" set of proposals after an eleventh-hour round of talks between eurozone finance ministers broke down on Thursday.

"The institutions are putting me and my government in an impossible position," said Varoufakis, but maintained that Greece's "commitment to remain in the eurozone is absolute."

Varoufakis explained his own "balanced proposal," which would see cuts on early retirement, increases in contributions to pension funds, and a heightened corporate tax. Cuts to pension funds were one of the painful austerity measures that the administration of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has fought most fiercely during the past four months of debt negotiations.

Looming deadline

As a deal remains elusive, Greece risks bankruptcy if it does not unlock much-needed bailout funds by June 30, when a repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) is due.

In light of this deadline, European leaders put pressure on their finance ministers to hammer out the final details of the debt financing agreement over the weekend.

"Leaders expect the Eurogroup to conclude this process at their meeting on Saturday," said Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, on Friday while chairing an EU summit in Brussels.

Despite a week of tense talks ending less than fruitfully, Prime Minister Tsipras remained upbeat, saying "European history is full of disagreements, negotiations, and at the end, compromises."

Germany's Schäuble unimpressed with Greek efforts

His nation's creditors, however, were more cautious in their appraisal of the situation, with lead lender Germany expressing its uncertainty the loudest. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble accused Athens of having "not moved, rather moved backward" with its latest suggestions for a deal, saying that if nothing gets solved before the June 30 deadline, the responsibility "lies exclusively with those in Greece."

Tsipras met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Friday on the sidelines of the EU summit, in talks aimed at reducing tension between Greece and its creditors.

In Washington, the IMF has said that it will not give Greece any extra time to make the repayment.

"We're expecting the payment to be made June 30," said IMF spokesman Gerry Rice.

es/msh (AP, AFP)

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