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EU proposes ‘last-minute’ solution to Greece’s Tsipras

Alexis Tsipras SyrizaEuropean Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker set out a possible last-minute solution to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to reach a debt deal before a bailout referendum, the EU said on Tuesday.

Juncker, the head of the EU’s executive and key powerbroker in Greek talks, spoke with Tsipras on Monday and asked him to provide an answer by midnight on the same day but was still awaiting a response.

“The door remains opened for a deal but time is running out quickly,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a news briefing, confirming an earlier AFP report.

The EU revealed the offer just hours before Greece’s bailout programme expires at 2200 GMT with a huge debt repayment to the IMF also due later in the day, and Athens has confirmed it would not be able to make the deadline.

“Prime Minister Tsipras called President Juncker last night and President Juncker — after having spoken to the Eurogroup President (head of eurozone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem) — outlined how a last-minute deal could look for the Eurogroup to consider,” Schinas said.

“This would require a move from the Greek government which President Juncker asked to see before midnight last night. As we speak this move has not been yet received or registered, and time is now narrowing.”

Schinas said a deal would involve accepting reform proposals that Greece’s EU-IMF creditors made at the weekend and backing a “yes” vote in Sunday’s referendum, Schinas said.

“The Greek government would accept the proposals … and the government would campaign for a ‘yes’ on these proposals,” Schinas said, describing the offer.

But Tsipras’s hard-left Syriza-led government has said it will recommend a “no” vote rejecting the reform plans. EU leaders say that it would amount to a vote to leave the euro.

The EU revealed the latest offer just hours before Greece’s bailout programme expires with a huge debt repayment to the IMF also due later in the day.

In Athens, a euro-MP from Tsipras’s Syriza party, Stelios Kouloglou, said “the Juncker plan must be studied.”

Non-payment of the debt payment “would be the first time in decades that the IMF was not paid and no one knows what would happen,” he said.

To seal the deal, a European source told AFP that Tsipras “would have to send a letter to Juncker, Dijsselbloem, Merkel and Hollande in which he accepts the proposal of the three institutions from Saturday.”

If Tsipras accepted it could “pave the way” for another Eurogroup meeting to finalise the agreement, the source added.

At an emergency meeting on Saturday, the Eurogroup rejected Greece’s request for an extension to its EU-IMF bailout programme past its planned expiry on Tuesday.

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