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Europe And Greece Far Apart As Bailout Talks Continue

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Europe And Greece Far Apart As Bailout Talks Continue

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Europe And Greece Far Apart As Bailout Talks Continue

Europe And Greece Far Apart As Bailout Talks Continue

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Leaders of the European Union continue their talks about bailing Greece out for a third time. NPR's Lynn Neary speaks to Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson about the proposals on the table.

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

Athens and its eurozone partners remain far apart on whether Greece should receive a third bailout, amounting to some $60 billion, to save its banks and possibly its economy from collapse. The key sticking point is trust. With many in the eurozone questioning Greece's sincerity given its offer of tax hikes and pension cuts that its voters soundly rejected during last Sunday's referendum. We go to NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Brussels for the latest. Soraya, eurozone leaders are meeting in Brussels, are they making any progress at all?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, it's not looking very good. There's a lot of tension and normally, you have a lot of leaders who will stop and speak to reporters, and you just didn't have that many of them doing it today. They looked all very frustrated and rushing along. One of the few that did stop was German chancellor, Angela Merkel. And she says that after two days, even eurozone's finance ministers couldn't reach a decision.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: She says the talks are going to be very difficult. And it's not really surprising because there's a huge divide. She says the economic situation of Greece has grown worse in recent months, but on the other side, and this for her was particularly important, was the fact that the most important currency is gone, and that is trust and reliability.

NEARY: And what does Greece say?

NELSON: It should come as no surprise that the government in Athens disagrees. But Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras nevertheless looked tense when he arrived at the meeting.

(SOUNDBITE OF MEETING)

PRIME MINISTER ALEXIS TSIPRAS: I'm here ready for another compromise. We owe that to the peoples of Europe who wants Europe united and not divided. We can reach an agreement tonight if all parties want it.

NELSON: Well, clearly all parties don't want it. I mean, at this stage, there just is no trust and so they don't want to rush into something because they're concerned about whether Greece can actually pay the money back.

NEARY: What is it about the Greek proposals that its eurozone partners don't like?

NELSON: Well, they've heard a lot of this before. There were two previous bailouts. And the Greek governments - previous Greek governments, not necessarily this one - have not necessarily implemented what they promised they would do. And so the constant situation in Greece is you have growing debt that they can't afford to pay back, the economy is worsening, and so the idea that they're just going to provide a third bailout without any sort of measures that would fix this is just unthinkable to many of them - not just the Germans. And so this is something that boils down to three issues according to the Finnish finance minister. And that would be ensuring the stability of the eurozone and Greek finances, making sure that Athens isn't taking on debt that it can't afford to pay back and just basic financing rules. So what they'd like to see is for the Greek government to take - to make these promises and pledges that they're making legislative proposals to have them actually voted and enacted and have some sort of time table.

NEARY: Given that the prospects for a third bailout program look pretty bleak, what alternatives are there?

NELSON: Well, on the bright side, you have none of the leaders from the eurozone talking about an exit of Greece from the euro currency union. So that's one thing. But there are some dire signs. The German Finance Ministry, for example, was suggesting that perhaps eurozone would kick Greece for a period of five years, let them get their house in order, to sell off Greek assets so that creditors could get some of their money back, and then perhaps provide some humanitarian or technical or other kinds of aid, which would help Greece rebuild its economy.

NEARY: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Brussels. Thanks so much. Soraya.

NELSON: You're welcome, Lynn.

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