The Latest: Several government lawmakers stay away, abstain or vote against reform proposal

ATHENS, Greece – The latest from Greece’s financial crisis (all times local):


3:40 a.m.

Several lawmakers who are members of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ governing Syriza party have either stayed away from a parliament vote on government bailout reform proposals, voted “present” — a form of abstention — or voted against.

The numbers were still being tallied but an initial count indicated that two Syriza lawmakers voted against Tsipras’ proposal, seven were absent — including former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis — and eight voted present in the procedure in the early hours of Saturday.

The dissent does not threaten the motion, which passed with a comfortable majority and authorizes the government to use the reform proposals as the basis for negotiations with creditors. But it was a stark indication of how against the party’s initial promise the proposals were, and could cause a problem for Tsipras’ coalition government.


3:25 a.m.

Greek lawmakers have approved a government motion seeking authorization for reform proposals as a basis for negotiations for a third bailout in talks with international creditors this weekend.

The 300-member parliament passed the motion by majority vote, but Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras saw some of the lawmakers of his left-wing Syriza party vote “present” instead of approving the motion — a form of abstention indicating dissent from their own party line.

Speaking to Parliament earlier, Tsipras acknowledged the proposals, which include harsh austerity measures such as tax hikes and cuts to pension costs, was far from his party’s pre-election promises. But he said it was the only chance for Greece to win a much-needed bailout that will include measures to address the country’s debt and will provide adequate financing.


12:35 a.m.

In a speech with a strongly personal tone, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says he negotiated as hard as he could and admits his government had made mistakes during his barely six-month tenure as he fought to win bailout funds for his debt-ridden country.

Speaking in a late-night parliament session, Tsipras described the last few months as a war in which difficult battles were fought and some were lost. “Now I have the feeling we’ve reached the demarked line. From here on there is a minefield,” he said.

He added that he doesn’t have the right to hide from the Greek people that the measures Greece must take are far from his left-wing party’s pre-election pledges.

But he insisted the latest proposal contains measures that would help the economy and, if approved by Greece’s creditors, would unlock sufficient financing for the country to emerge from its protracted crisis and see its massive debt tackled.


12:00 a.m.

Greek lawmakers have begun debating the government’s reform proposals in a late-night parliament session due to end in a vote at 3 a.m.

The government has asked for lawmakers’ endorsement to use the proposed measures as a basis for negotiation. If approved by creditors, who are to discuss the measures over the weekend, Greece will get a third bailout of more than 50 billion euros.

The measures include tax hikes and spending cuts very similar to ones Greeks rejected in a referendum last Sunday, but the reforms would bring a far larger aid package over a longer period of time.


10:10 p.m.

Greece’s former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, says family obligations will keep him away from Friday night’s parliament session to debate the government’s proposed reforms in return for a third bailout.

The government has asked for parliament’s approval to use the Greek proposals sent to creditors Thursday as the basis for negotiations with the creditors due to start Saturday. The vote is expected sometime overnight Friday.

Varoufakis tweeted that he would be spending the weekend with his daughter before she returns to Australia, where she lives. He sent parliament a letter saying he was voting in favour of the motion.


8:10 p.m.

Greece’s new finance minister claims his country will win better terms for a bailout deal after calling a referendum, despite angering creditor countries.

In his first speech in parliament since becoming minister, Euclid Tsakalotos argued that the new proposed cuts are more socially fair than those in a previous draft agreement.

He told lawmakers: “I think after the referendum we are in a stronger position.”

The proposed deal, he said, would provide three years of financing with repayments spaced more evenly than under previous bailouts. He said there was also growing consensus for the need for a long-term debt relief agreement by 2022, when interest payments are set to surge.

He added: “I think most of what we are aking for on debt relief is going to happen.”


6:40 p.m.

Spanish Economy Minister Luis De Guindos is advising caution, not optimism, about Greece’s reform proposals, which he says he hasn’t seen yet.

The proposals are to be discussed by eurozone finance ministers on Saturday, ahead of an EU summit Sunday, following months of failed negotiations between Athens and creditors.

De Guindos said “I would be cautious” about the chances of the proposals bringing a deal.

Even so, he said the proposals moved Greece “back to a square before the referendum.”


6:30 p.m.

A group of dissenters in Greece’s governing Syriza party is urging the government to prepare to leave the euro and to reject any deal with creditors that involves more crippling austerity.

The group known as the Left Platform submitted a letter to Syriza lawmakers who met in parliament early Friday. In it, the group said an exit from the euro “under present conditions is a difficult but feasible process that will allow the country to follow a different path.”

Syriza lawmakers met ahead of vote to authorize Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to negotiate a deal with creditors in Brussels this weekend.

His government submitted a list of reforms to creditors late Thursday in order to win support for a new financial rescue of the country. So far, most of the responses to the proposals have been positive.


6:20 p.m.

The president of Cyprus says the Greek government’s reform proposals to its creditors are much improved from previous versions and that there’s a “solid basis” for an agreement to prevent the country from going bankrupt.

President Nicos Anastasiades says he’s “more optimistic” now than he was in the past few days when there was much uncertainty whether Greece would meet a Thursday deadline to submit the proposals.

Anastasiades said he fully supports the restructuring of Greece’s debt to make it more sustainable which would help the country overcome its economic crisis.

He said debt relief doesn’t necessarily mean a write-off, but an agreement could see repayment deadlines extended and interest rates slashed.

Anastasiades was speaking after talks aimed at reunifying ethnically divided Cyprus with breakaway Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.


5:40 p.m.

The International Monetary Fund’s outgoing chief economist thinks Greece may need more money than the fund thought even last week.

In a blog post, Olivier Blanchard said Greece will likely need more than the 60 billion euros or so that the Fund indicated in a report last week. He said a big portion of the additional help is needed to help Greece’s banks which are exposed to shaky Greek government bonds and have been fighting an outflow of deposits.

Blanchard also said Greece may need more generous debt relief than anticipated and that Greece’s European creditors considered the analysis “as too pessimistic.”

Greece has sent creditors a list of reform proposals in order to get 53.5 billion euros ($59.5 billion) of financing for three years and is hopeful of getting some sort of debt relief in return.


4:05 p.m.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has expressed cautious optimism that Greece’s latest offer could resolve a debt standoff and allow the country to stay in the eurozone.

He told a forum in New York on Friday that “It certainly looks like they’re getting closer,” adding, however, that “they’ve had trouble getting from close to closed.”

He says Greece needs to take difficult steps to reduce budget deficits and make its economy more efficient. He also says Greece’s creditors need to restructure the country’s debt, though that would not necessarily mean they would have to write off a part of what Greece owes them.

He says “It’s going to be a long slog through the next few days, but it should get worked out.”

Lew says the global financial system is better positioned to deal with Greece’s exit from the euro than it was a few years. Still, he said: “It would be a better thing for the global economy if this thing gets resolved.”


2:45 p.m.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls laid out his hopes for an imminent Greek bailout deal after the country’s government sent “solid, serious and complete” reform proposals to creditors.

Valls’ optimistic comments echo those made earlier by French President Francois Hollande.

Valls warned of the economic as well as political risks of a Greek exit from the euro.

“We should do everything so that Greece remains in the eurozone,” Valls told reporters in remarks broadcast on French television. “No one can pretend to know the consequences, economic, politic, public order… of a Greek exit.”

Valls conceded that France and Germany had a ‘different rapport’ with regard to Greece but that difference didn’t hurt the overall relationship between the two countries.


2:25 p.m.

A Greek opposition party leader predicted a “large majority” of lawmakers will approve the government’s proposals to creditors in a crucial vote later.

Potami party leader Stavros Theodorakis says there’s no more room for discussions and that the Greek people want a deal ending “the anxiety and the stranglehold” that they feel.

He said a talk with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Friday left him with the sense that the international creditors feel the Greek proposals are “moving in the right direction.”

Theodorakis said some “details” remain that both the Greek government and the creditors have still to iron out.

Greece met a Thursday deadline with a sweeping reform package that it hopes will convince creditors to turn lend it billions more, which would secure the country’s place in the 19-country eurozone.


1:35 p.m.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann says he sees a chance of an agreement with Greece after the country submitted reform proposals to creditors.

Faymann said in a statement that “constructive forces must now be stronger that those who don’t want a solution under any circumstances.”

He didn’t specify who exactly he meant.

Faymann says it must not be forgotten that the crisis in Greece is affecting its poorest people — “so it is our obligation to use this last opportunity constructively.”


1:30 p.m.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas says four of the key players in the Greek debt crisis will hold a conference call later to discuss the reform proposals sent by Athens late Thursday.

Schinas says the 1100 GMT (2 p.m. Athens time) call will involve eurozone’s top official, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde.

The call at comes as representatives from the Commission, IMF and ECB all assessing Greece’s proposals.

Schinas, speaking at a briefing in Brussels, would not give any early assessment of the Greek reform plans.

He says the institutions will likely send their assessments to the eurogroup later Friday. Eurogroup finance ministers are scheduled to meet Saturday in Brussels to discuss the plans.


1:15 p.m.

The German government isn’t giving an immediate verdict on the list of reform measures submitted by Greece, saying that it will wait for the assessment of the country’s formal creditors.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said he “cannot yet evaluate these new Greek proposals in terms of substance.” He said Berlin will wait for the European Commission, the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund to deliver their verdict.

Seibert says Merkel will be accompanied to a special European Union summit on Sunday by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. If there is an agreement, the government will have to get a mandate from the German Parliament to open full-fledged negotiations with Greece.


1:05 p.m.

The eurozone’s top official doesn’t appear to be ready to share his view on Greece’s reform proposals.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch finance minister, conceded that the proposals sent to creditors late Thursday were “extensive” but that they had to be assessed in terms of their viability.

Dijsselbloem says representatives from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund “will do the math and see if it adds up, if it’s right.”

Dijsselbloem and his peers in the 19-country eurozone, including Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos meet Saturday to discuss the proposals.

“Whichever way we go, we have to take a very far-reaching decision tomorrow, so let’s do it carefully,” he said.


12:40 p.m.

A European Union official says the eurozone’s 19 leaders may scrap a scheduled meeting on Sunday if finance ministers give their blessing to Greek proposals for bailout cash.

The finance ministers meet Saturday in Brussels and there are growing expectations that they will reach agreement with Greece over a 3-year cash-for-reforms deal.

“We’re in a quite hurried procedure,” said the EU official, who was briefing reporters at the bloc’s headquarters on condition he was not identified.

Greece has requested a third bailout of 53.5 billion euros ($59 billion) and caved in to a large chunk of creditor demands for a new round of austerity measures. In return, it hopes to get meaningful debt relief from creditors.

The proposals are currently being assessed by representatives from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

It was not immediately clear whether Sunday’s summit of the European Union’s 28 leaders would also be scrapped in the event of a deal.

— – By John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels.


12:05 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says the Greek proposals are “serious and credible” but stressed that nothing is final yet.

Hollande told reporters in Paris that the Greeks have “just shown a determination to want to stay in the eurozone, because the program that they are presenting is serious and credible.”

He also said the fact the government is submitting its proposals to Parliaments shows “power, commitment and I would also say, courage.”

Discussions, he added, must “now begin, must resume, but with the will to reach a conclusion.”

France’s Socialist government has been among the Greek government’s few allies in the eurozone as it struggled for months to negotiate a bailout deal.


10:35 a.m.

European stock markets have responded positively to the reform proposals that the Greek government sent overnight to creditors.

In early trading, the Stoxx 50 index of leading European shares was up 2.3 per cent while Germany’s DAX rose 2.1 per cent.

Greece has requested a third bailout of 53.5 billion euros ($59 billion) and seemingly caved in to a large chunk of creditor demands for a new round of austerity measures. In return, it hopes to get meaningful debt relief from creditors.

“With a number of institutions now agreeing in principle that Greece needs debt relief, proposals offered by Athens suggest a willingness to meet in the middle by giving in on a number of creditor demands for reforms,” said Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets. “It’s the closest a deal for Greece has been in five months.”


10:25 a.m.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is convening his Syriza party lawmakers to discuss the reform proposals his government sent to creditors late Thursday night in an effort to reach a deal on a third bailout.

The meeting comes before a parliamentary session where, in an unusual move, the country’s 300 lawmakers will be asked to authorize Tsipras and his negotiators to use the proposals as the basis for negotiations with Greece’s international creditors.

Greece has requested a third bailout of 53.5 billion euros ($59 billion) and caved in to a large chunk of creditor demands for a new round of austerity measures.

In return, it hopes to get meaningful debt relief from creditors.

Hopes have grown that Greece can secure a rescue deal at a meeting of European Union leaders on Sunday in Brussels that would prevent the country’s exit from the euro.