BRUSSELS — Greece’s new government is confronting its eurozone creditors head on at an emergency meeting Feb. 11, where Athens will seek to ease its bailout conditions in the face of strong resistance from its partners.
The gathering of finance ministers from the 19 Eurozone countries was called to hear details of Greece’s demand to reduce the burden of its loans and loosen required budget austerity measures.
The new radical-left government won elections last month on a promise to get concessions from Greece’s creditors, which also include the International Monetary Fund.
The current bailout package expires at the end of the month, and Athens has so far refused to ask for an extension, which could leave it to fend for itself financially as of next month.
Rather, it wants to scrap the bailout deal altogether and agree on a new one. Eurozone officials said that refusing the current program outright is a risky strategy for Athens.
“Greece no longer wants to endorse this. That is not possible for us,” said Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt.
It’s unclear how far Eurozone states are willing to be tough with Greece. If the country loses all financial support, it might have to drop out of the euro currency union, a prospect that would do untold damage to Greece and raises huge uncertainty for Europe.
Van Overtveldt took a tough stance: “To be part of a monetary union implies that you respect the rules. If Greece is no longer willing to respect the rules, then indeed there is only one way out,” he told VRT network.
On the eve of the meeting, however, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said there was “no way back” for his government in its quest to rewrite the bailout terms.
Despite such division, there remains hope for compromise. “It is clear that we are seeking a common solution” said Martin Jaeger, a Finance Ministry spokesman for Germany, Greece’s most influential creditor.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and EU officials hope the outlines of an agreement can be sketched on for a second Eurozone finance ministers’ meeting on Feb. 16.
Markets have been volatile over the past two weeks amid the uncertainty over a deal. After big gains on Feb. 10, markets were down on Feb. 11. The main stock index in Athens was over 3 percent lower.
Meanwhile, the Greek government sold 13-week Treasury bills at a significantly higher interest rate than at a similar sale last month. The higher rate indicates investors are more worried about Greece not repaying its debts.
Greece raised 1.13 billion euros at a rate of 2.5 percent, up from 2.15 percent at the last such auction on Jan. 14.
The European Central Bank, whose chief Mario Draghi is due to attend the meeting along with IMF head Christine Lagarde, has said that Greece can issue up to 15 billion euros in such short-term debt. The Greek Finance Ministry wants to be allowed to issue a further eight billion euros worth.
By Lorne Cook and Raf Casert. Elena Becatoros and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report
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