Greece angers euro creditors with lack of info, wants talks at EU summit

Supporters of opposition leader and head of radical leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras cheers at exit poll results January in Athens, Greece.
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Supporters of opposition leader and head of radical leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras cheers at exit poll results January in Athens, Greece.

Greece frustrated its main creditors on Tuesday by refusing to update eurozone peers on its reform progress at a scheduled teleconference, insisting instead that the discussions should be escalated to Thursday's European Union summit.

Describing the annoyance that has been building up among euro zone countries with the new Greek government's approach, one euro zone official said: "For many people the teleconference this afternoon could be something of a last straw."

Euro zone deputy finance ministers held a teleconference at 1530 GMT to get an "update on the state of play" on Greece, which is running out of cash and time to negotiate and implement reforms that would unblock loans to prevent it from defaulting.

Greek and German relations hit low ebb
Greek and German relations hit low ebb   

But three sources with knowledge of the call said that, instead of an update, a Greek official had said these issues would be discussed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the EU leaders meeting in Brussels. Tsipras, whose left-led coalition took power in January, is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French leader Francois Hollande as well as top EU officials.

Two sources said that one of the officials on the call, which the sources described as short, said following the Greek refusal to update that the creditors were "riding a dead horse", suggesting the talks were getting nowhere.

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European officials said they did not understand what Greece hoped to achieve by bringing the issue to the summit, where Greece is not on the formal agenda and could only be discussed in meetings on the sidelines and only in broad political terms.

They said EU leaders could not offer Tsipras anything more than the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, because any further financial help to Athens hinged on reforms thatGreece would have to implement, despite its great reluctance.

All three sources with knowledge of the call confirmed the content, and the anger of euro zone ministers with the attitude of the Greek government, which does not want to honor reform commitments made by its predecessor in exchange for almost 240 billion euros in loans.

The Tsipras government won the Jan. 25 election on slogans of rejecting budget consolidation and reversing some of the reforms. Euro zone officials believe Athens has made unrealistic promises it cannot now finance.

While Greece agreed early last week to restart talks with its creditors on what reforms would have to be implemented to unblock further loans from the euro zone, there has been no progress since then apart from cooperation of technical teams to gather relevant data.

Time is running out because Athens is likely to run of cash by the end of the month and may then default on its debt, potentially forcing itself out of the euro zone.