The European Commission will submit its assessment of Greece’s demand for a new two-year loan program to the finance ministers of the 19 nations using the euro.
All the finance ministers, including Greece, are holding a teleconference meeting later Wednesday.
Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis says it’s up to the member countries to decide what action to take, but warns that the Greek request is being considered in “a different economic situation” than offers last week. That suggests any decision could take time.
The Commission is also urging the European Financial Stability Facility _ Greece’s biggest creditor _ not to call in its loans to Greece until decisions on a possible new bailout have been made.
Cyprus’ finance minister is calling Greece’s latest bid to thrash out a new bailout program with its creditors to be “very significant” and a “step in the right direction.”
Harris Georgiades said he’s cautiously optimistic that Greece’s latest move would help the country “avoid dangers and move forward.”
He said Cyprus wants Greece to stay in the eurozone so that “serious risks and painful consequences” for the Greek people are avoided.
Georgiades said a well-structured bailout program that’s reform-driven and doesn’t rely on taxation can bring the country back to growth.
Greece’s biggest creditor says the country is likely to be in default for not paying its roughly 1.6 billion-euro ($1.8 billion) debt installment to the International Monetary on Tuesday.
The European Financial Stability Facility says that once the non-payment is officially confirmed by the IMF board “this would constitute an event of default for certain EFSF loans.”
In a statement, the EFSF said its chief Klaus Regling would then have to propose one of three actions to the 19 nations using the euro.
He could suggest that the loan contract be cancelled and demand immediate payment of Greece’s debt and interest, waive the EFSF’s rights for this loan payment, or reserve the right to act at a later stage.
The government in Athens owes the EFSF 130.9 billion euros ($145.9 billion) in loan money.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is making clear that she wants the International Monetary Fund involved in any new aid program for Greece.
Merkel said making Europe strong in the world and defending its values is a key consideration in deciding whether to launch negotiations on a new bailout “on the basis of solidarity and responsibility, and involving the three institutions _ the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.”
Merkel also said Europe has become stronger over the past five years and that “we can wait calmly” for the Greek referendum result.
“Today the other 18 member states no longer have to fear an economic catastrophe because Greece has gotten into turbulence,” she added.
No votes in Sunday’s Greek referendum have been cast yet, but bookmakers are already expressing confidence that voters will back creditor demands for more austerity in return for bailout cash.
Many online bookmakers already have stopped taking wagers on the outcome as money has flowed in heavily in favor of Greeks voting “yes.”
The government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said it will press for a “no” outcome.
The major Irish bookmaker, Paddy Power, closed betting Wednesday and paid out winning outcomes to those who risked money on a “yes” verdict.
The Dublin-based company said more than 85 percent of its customers’ money placed on the Greek referendum outcome backed approval.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is insisting that there can be no negotiations on any new aid package for Greece before its referendum on Sunday.
Merkel told the German Parliament Wednesday that “the door to talks with the Greek government was always open and will always stay open.” But she said that Greece unilaterally ended talks by calling Sunday’s referendum on previous creditor proposals.
She said that was Greece’s legitimate right but that other eurozone countries had their rights, too.
“We will wait for the referendum,” she said. “There can be no negotiations on a new aid program before the referendum.”
Merkel also insisted that Europe needs to stick to rules and principles in negotiations and that a compromise at any price would only be “a result for the sake of a result.”
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has rejected suggestions that a new bailout agreement with Greece was possible before Sunday’s referendum.
Schaeuble said Greece’s creditors in the eurozone agreed there was “no sense” in trying to reach one in a situation where there are constantly conflicting reports on what Greece wants.
“Before a referendum, there is indeed no basis (for an agreement),” said Schaeuble.
He added that with Greece’s bailout having expired Tuesday, “we cannot simply act as though” the program was still in place.
Eurozone finance ministers are set to discuss Greece’s latest proposals in a teleconference later.
A Greek official has sought to douse suggestions that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has caved in to creditor demands.
In a letter sent to creditors Tuesday proposing a new deal for Greece, Tsipras appeared to make significant concessions in a request for a new bailout deal.
The Greek official insisted that press reports he had “fully accepted the creditor proposal are not true.”
In the letter, Tsipras said Greece is “prepared to accept” the creditor proposal as it was presented last Sunday by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who published it on the Commission website, subject to certain amendments.
Those include maintaining the discounted value added tax on Greek islands which creditors had demanded to be abolished, and delay some labor reforms until the fall, compared to creditor demands they be enacted immediately.
Germany’s finance minister has urged Greece to make it clear what it wants from creditors before serious talks on a new bailout can take place.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble complained of confusing reports coming from Greece and noted that any discussions to take place will be under “much more difficult conditions” than previously.
Greece, he said “must first create clarity as to what it wants, and then we have to talk about it under much more difficult conditions.”
He noted that Greece’s bailout program has expired so the possible deal being presented in Sunday’s referendum no longer exists.
Stock markets across Europe surged higher on a report on the Financial Times website that Greece will accept all the bailout demands of creditors bar a few changes such as maintaining a discount on sales taxes on the Greek islands.
In the two-page letter sent to Greece’s creditors on Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appears to be making big concessions in a request for a new bailout deal.
Traders responded positively, thinking that it could form the basis of a new deal between Greece and its creditors that would prevent a messy Greek exit from the euro.
The Stoxx 50 index of leading European shares was up 1.6 percent, while Germany’s DAX jumped 2.2 percent.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin is hoping for an agreement with Greece before Sunday’s referendum but called the situation “terrifyingly complicated.”
Sapin said on French radio RTL that “the aim is to find an agreement, before the referendum if possible.” Eurozone finance ministers are set to discuss Greece’s latest two-year bailout request later in a teleconference.
“If Greece votes yes, negotiations will continue in difficult conditions, but we’d be able to quickly find an agreement,” he said. “If Greece votes no, there is a risk of sliding towards a Greek exit from the euro.”
Sapin also said the “little countries,” many of which have taken made big economic changes over the past few years, have taken a tougher stance on Greece than Germany.
Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s reckons a Greek exit from the euro could “easily weaken the upturn” currently taking place in the eurozone.
Though, the agency says the risks of contagion to other eurozone countries are less elevated that in 2010-11, it does warn that a so-called Grexit could “lead to increased risk aversion among investors, lenders and consumers.”
S&P has upgraded its projections for the eurozone to 1.6 percent growth this year and 1.9 percent next, from the previous 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent.
U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne says the failure of the Greek government to make its scheduled payments to the IMF has only served to add to a sense of crisis in the country.
Greece failed to repay a debt of roughly 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to the IMF, becoming the first developed country to fall into arrears since Zimbabwe in 2001.
Osborne said it is vital to resolve uncertainty to ensure economic and financial stability across Europe.
“We hope for the best; but we prepare for the worst, and we stand ready to do whatever is necessary to protect our economic security at this uncertain time,” he said.
Thousands of elderly Greeks thronged banks that were opened especially for pensioners who don’t have bank cards, to allow them some access to their money.
Withdrawals are limited to 120 euros ($133) per person for the week.
However, a seeming last minute decision to serve customers on an alphabetical basis, announced by some banks overnight and others in the morning, led to confusion and frustration.
Many pensioners waited in line from before dawn but were eventually told they would have to return Thursday or Friday.
Greek banks have been closed since Monday as the government imposed strict capital controls to prevent a bank run in the wake of its decision to call a referendum on creditor demands.
Markets took in stride Greece’s failure to pay the roughly 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) it owed the IMF with stock indexes across Europe posting solid gains. The Stoxx 50 index of leading European shares was up 0.7 percent while Germany’s DAX rose 0.9 percent.
There appear to be some hopes that Greece’s new proposals to the eurozone may meet with some support. Eurozone finance ministers are set to weigh Greece’s latest proposal for aid later, in a teleconference that’s been put off until 5.30 p.m. Brussels time, according to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone’s top official.