Finance ministers from the 19 euro nations are travelling to Luxembourg Thursday for a chance to seal a reforms-for-rescue deal for Greece and the stakes couldn't be higher. However, expectations of any breakthrough couldn't be lower.
The Eurogroup is expected to discuss how to break the deadlock and release further bailout funds so that Greece can pay a key debt installment of 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and avoid default.
On Wednesday, the official in charge of Greece's negotiating team, Euclid Tsakalotos, confirmed to Reuters that Greece did not have enough money to cover the IMF payment due on June 30, without a reform deal that could unlock a final tranche of bailout aid worth 7.2 billion euros.
Putting more pressure on Greece, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel told the German parliament that reforms were required for Greece to conclude its bailout program but a deal could still be found, echoing remarks she has made before by saying "where there's a will there's a way on Greece," Reuters reported.
Elsewhere on Thursday, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said the European Central Bank (ECB) – which has been extending emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) to Greece's central bank -- would not be able to provide financial help for Greece if political negotiations break down, according to an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa published Thursday.
Despite the danger of a looming default and the consequences that could ultimately have – such as a so-called "Grexit" from the euro zone, Greece has already said this week that it would say "no" to any deal that involved more pension cuts that creditors demand.
On Thursday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reiterated that position, saying that a "blind"insistence on pension cuts – one of the ways the government could overhaul its finances -- would worsen Greece's crisis.
"The pensions of the elderly are often the last refuge for entire families that have only one or no member working in a country with 25 percent unemployment in the general population…Faced with such a situation we cannot adopt the logic of blind and horizontal cuts, as some have asked us to do, which would result in dramatic social consequences," Tsipras wrote in a guest column for German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.
Despite the five-month impasse with creditors over reforms, and Greece's financial stability hanging in the balance, even Greece's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who will be attending the meeting on Thursday, doesn't expect a deal. Speaking to reporters in Paris on Wednesday, saying that a deal would come only when heads of state meet.
If Thursday's meeting fails to make progress on the outstanding gaps between creditor demands and Greece's requirements, there are expectations that an emergency summit could well be held this weekend, although European officials denied the rumors.