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Success in eurozone talks?

February 12, 2015

Greece and its creditors have agreed to discuss requests to lighten the country's debt. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told EU leaders that continued austerity would kill Greece’s economy.

Hollande und Tsipras
Image: Reuters/Y. Herman

Greek officials have agreed to discussions with creditors toward a way out of the country's debt. Both sides made conciliatory moves at Thursday's summit of EU leaders in Brussels, encouraging investors' hopes that they could reach a deal to avoid Greece's losing the euro.

"Compromises are agreed when the advantages outweigh the disadvantages," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said when she arrived in Brussels on Thursday, fresh from a trip to Minsk, where she had worked on achieving another important compromise: putting an end to Ukraine's civil war. "Germany is ready for this."

Eurozone countries had announced that they would continue discussions only if Greece extended the program. Authorities plan to hold talks with representatives of the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, according to Luxembourg's Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna.

Despite the goodwill and a stated desire by all parties to compromise, European Council President Donald Tusk said that European leaders "did not enter into a negotiation on Greece" on Thursday in Brussels.

Also present at Thursday's meeting was Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, who told DW that European leaders "have very little patience to spare" with Greece.

'The European rules'

Greece entered Thursday's talks demanding a bridging loan to cover the country's financial shortfalls while it negotiates a less austere economic plan with its creditors. But EU officials had demanded that the new government not deviate from previous agreements and that it extend the current bailout program. Without loans from international partners, the country could face bankruptcy, with debts at around 175 percent of gross domestic product.

As an architect of austerity that has cut services across Greece since 2010, Merkel has faced a barrage of criticism in the country. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras campaigned as the anti-Merkel, vowing to consign to history the financial trauma that has left the economy at 75 percent of pre-crisis levels and swollen poverty and unemployment numbers. Tsipras won power last month on a promise to scrap the country's bailout - and the conditions imposed upon it by international lenders - in favor of a new, lighter and more humane program. He sold these policies as a promise to swap self-rule for the whims of international creditors that have ruled the country since the bailout.

For his part, Tsipras had also seemed in a mood for compromise heading into Thursday's talks. Despite the tensions surrounding their meeting, the two leaders exchanged warm greetings, holding each other by their elbows, and chatting amiably, if briefly.

"We will need to find a solution that respects the positions of all parties, so this agreement will have to be based on the core values of Europe, democracy and the vote of the people, but also on the necessity to respect the European rules," Tsipras had said earlier Thursday.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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