Five people who hold Greece’s fate in their hands – Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Mario Draghi, Jean-Claude Juncker and Christine Lagarde – met for talks in Berlin last night.
Another day of claim and counter-claim.
The Greek government said a deal with its lenders had reached the drafting stage and would not require wages and pensions cuts or reforms to the VAT regime. It didn’t take long for euro zone officials to retort that this simply was not the case and that the two sides remained far apart.
The smart money has always been on a last-minute deal being done to keep Greece afloat with Athens making most of the concessions and the euro zone and IMF bending only a little. But the chances of a car crash are growing as each day passes.
The Greek government states that a cash-for-reforms deal with the EU and IMF can be finalized in the next 10 days but the other side is much less optimistic and there was no sign of a breakthrough at the EU summit in Riga which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had been pinning some hope on.
Greece’s European lenders have played down hopes of a swift end to aid negotiations and said talks must speed up before the country runs out of cash. That contrasted sharply with optimism in Athens where a series of top officials asserted that a deal was just days away.
In an epic late-night talk show appearance, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said his government was nearing a cash-for-reforms deal with its euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund that would help it meet debt repayments next month.