Greece’s government appeared to be caving into demands from its creditors on Wednesday, offering concessions in a desperate attempt to get more aid hours after its bailout program expired.
European officials ruled out any deal before a Greek referendum, raising increasing questions about whether Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras would go ahead with the Sunday vote, which creditors have fiercely opposed. The head of a top European intergovernmental institution told The Associated Press that any such referendum would fall short of international standards.
The details of the hastily called referendum on whether to accept budget cuts in exchange for European loans remain unclear, as are the consequences. Especially uncertain is what would happen if Greeks vote “no” — and whether that would drive the country out of the eurozone and even deeper into poverty.
Some European officials said the new Greek offer, made in a letter on Tuesday night, wasn’t good enough and that a deal remained impossible in any case before the referendum. Tsipras’ letter said his government was prepared to accept creditors’ proposals, subject to certain amendments.
Hopes that Tsipras was softening his position — after refusing for five months to accept the proposed spending cuts — boosted markets on Wednesday. Greek officials hinted that any deal with the creditors could cause the referendum to be canceled.
But German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was clear that no deal was imminent, at least not before Greece’s popular vote.
In Athens, crowds of anxious elderly Greeks thronged banks for hours from before dawn, struggling to be allowed to withdraw their maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week after the government reopened some banks to help pensioners who don’t have bank cards.
With many elderly Greeks unable to access any money without bank cards, the government said about 1,000 bank branches across the country would open for three days starting Wednesday to give them access to some cash.
Greece is in a financial limbo now that its bailout program has expired, cutting it off from vital financing and pushing it one step closer to leaving the euro. The country has put limits on cash withdrawals in order to keep banks from collapsing.
Its situation was further worsened on Tuesday when it failed to repay a debt to the International Monetary Fund, becoming the first developed country to do so. The last country to miss an IMF payment was Zimbabwe in 2001.
As long as it is in arrears on the payment to the IMF, one of the country’s main creditors, Greece cannot get any more money from the organization.
Report by Associated Press.
CCTV’s Guy Henderson filed this report from Berlin.
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