Breaking News Emails
BRUSSELS — Euro zone leaders told near-bankrupt Greece at an emergency summit on Sunday that it must enact key reforms this week to restore trust before they will open talks on any new financial rescue to keep it in the European currency area.
Leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be required to push legislation through parliament to convince his 18 partners in the euro zone to release immediate funds to avert a state bankruptcy and start negotiations on a third bailout program.
Six sweeping measures including tax and pension reforms will have to be enacted by Wednesday night and the entire package endorsed by parliament before talks can start, a draft decision sent by Eurogroup finance ministers to the leaders showed.
The document also included a German proposal to make Greece take a "time-out" from the euro zone if it failed to meet the conditions for a loan. But not all ministers endorsed the idea, which was reserved in brackets in the text seen by Reuters.
A senior EU source said such a temporary exit from the euro was illegal and would not survive in the summit statement.
Tsipras said on arrival in Brussels he wanted "another honest compromise" to keep Europe united.
"We can reach an agreement tonight if all parties want it," he said.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is the biggest contributor to euro zone bailouts, said the conditions were not yet right to start negotiations, sounding cautious in deference to mounting opposition at home to more aid for Greece.
"The most important currency has been lost and that is trust," she told reporters. "That means that we will have tough discussions and there will be no agreement at any price."
If Greece meets the conditions, the German parliament would meet on Thursday to mandate Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to open the talks on a new loan. Then Eurogroup finance ministers would meet again on Friday or at the weekend to formally launch the negotiations.
A Greek government official, in a first reaction to the draft, said: "How can they demand all these measures at the last minute without securing a lifeline to see us through till next week?"
A European official said a Eurogroup meeting on Monday could discuss ways to provide emergency finance to keep Athens afloat.