Greek leader seeking joint Merkel-Hollande talks amid bailout impasse

ATHENS, Greece – Greece has called for joint talks with leaders of Germany, France and the European Union executive to try and resolve the crisis surrounding the country’s bailout negotiations.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras proposed meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, a senior Greek government official told The Associated Press Tuesday.

The talks would be held in Brussels on Thursday ahead of an EU leaders’ meeting, said the official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity pending official announcements.

There was no immediate response to the Greek request.

“I have now no confirmation of any particular meeting arrangements,” EU Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said.

“This is now the moment for technical discussions between the experts including Greece, and we need swift progress on implementing the Greek reform commitments.”

European creditor states are in talks with Greece on a list of reforms it should present by the end of April in order to receive the next batch of rescue loans. The talks, however, are not progressing quickly and Greece faces a cash crunch in coming weeks.

In Paris, a government official who also asked not to be identified said the French government was waiting to hear from bailout inspectors currently in Athens.

“Depending on their results, we’ll need to see if financing solutions are necessary sooner than at the end of April,” the official said.

Late Tuesday, Greek officials said they were determined to go ahead with a key piece of draft legislation, despite opposition from the country’s creditors who — the officials said — wanted to vet the proposed law before it was presented in parliament.

Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis said there had been “objections and baseless complaints” over the draft law, which meets a core pledge by the radical left-led government to address what it calls Greece’s “humanitarian crisis” by providing free power and food coupons to the country’s poorest.

One senior government official invited opposition parties to “resist the blackmail” and back the proposed legislation during a vote in parliament scheduled for Wednesday.

“If in Europe in 2015 addressing the humanitarian crisis is considered a unilateral action, then what is left of European values?” the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the press.

Tsipras, who was elected on Jan. 25, is due to meet Merkel in Berlin on Monday and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 8. On Tuesday, he met in Athens with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

The prospect of a Brussels meeting saw Greek borrowing rates ease and shares on the Athens Stock exchange rebound from losses a day earlier, closing up nearly 1 per cent.

Attention, however, also turned to Tsipras’ outspoken finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who was quizzed on German television over the weekend on a speech he gave two years ago. An online video of his appearance showed Varoufakis making a rude gesture when referring to Germany, a lead creditor.

Varoufakis said that the version shown on the program had been doctored and later tweeted a video of the full version of his speech — also showing him raising his middle finger while saying: “My proposal was that Greece should simply announce that it is defaulting — just like Argentina did — within the euro, in January 2010, and stick the finger to Germany and say: Well now you can solve this problem by yourself.”


AP writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.