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Tsipras to meet EU's Juncker as Greece debt deadline looms
[ATHENS] Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Wednesday for make-or-break bailout talks with a deadline looming for Athens to make a critical repayment.
Greece and its international creditors have exchanged proposals to reach a deal to unlock 7.2 billion euros (S$10.8 billion) to help Athens make Friday's repayment, but months of fractious talks have been deadlocked over creditors' insistence that Athens undertake greater reforms which Greece's anti-austerity government has refused to match.
Meanwhile there are fears that Greece could default, possibly setting off a chain reaction that could end with a messy exit from the eurozone.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the Eurogroup which is comprised of the eurozone's 19 members, has said he was unimpressed with progress made in the debt talks, after Athens claimed its plan was a "realistic" one.
His remarks come with Mr Tsipras due to meet Mr Juncker in Brussels on Wednesday evening, a government source said.
Mr Tsipras on Tuesday raised hope of a breakthrough, with the leader of Greece's left-wing Syriza government telling reporters: "We have made concessions because a negotiation demands concessions, we know these concessions will be difficult." In Brussels, the European Union called the exchange of documents a positive step, but stopped short of saying a deal was imminent.
"Many documents are being exchanged between the institutions and the Greek authorities... The fact that documents are being exchanged is a good sign," European Commission spokeswoman Annika Breidthardt said.
Asked about the possibility of a deal, she added: "We're not there yet."
The Eurogroup's Mr Dijsselbloem, however, said he was unimpressed by the progress, saying on Tuesday that it was "really not enough".
"We're still nowhere far enough, that's the conclusion and time is pressing," said Mr Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch finance minister.
He told Dutch television that while there could be some concessions on the bailout package, there would be no half-way compromises.
"The bottom line is not that we can meet each other halfway, the whole package must be solid," he said.
Greece is staring at a Friday deadline to repay more than 300 million euros to the IMF. Overall it needs to repay the global lender some 1.6 billion euros this month, funds it currently lacks.
The creditors in Europe and the International Monetary Fund are pushing for greater reforms in return for the cash, which Greece's anti-austerity government has refused to match.
The Greek government has said its proposals were in line with a column Mr Tsipras wrote which was published in France's Le Monde daily on Monday.
In it the 40-year-old prime minister defended his government's determination to bolster labour rights in a country staggering under massive unemployment.
Mr Tsipras added that his administration would implement a series of privatisations that it had previously opposed, and reform the value added tax system as well as the pension system.
"I am confident, I believe the political leadership of Europe will approach our positions with respect and join the side of realism," Tsipras said.
The move came as the chiefs of the IMF and the European Central Bank met with the leaders of Germany and France and the head of the European Commission on Monday to reportedly come up with a "final proposal" to put to Athens.
Mr Tsipras is under pressure from his party's influential radical wing to reject any reform plan that piles more austerity on the recession-hit country.
"We do not accept ultimata or succumb to blackmail," Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Other officials said the government would rather hold snap elections than accept a deal with more austerity.
"If the agreement is bad for the government, the people and the country it will not even be tabled in parliament... We will have to hold elections," junior social security minister Dimitris Stratoulis told Skai Radio.