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Greece, eurozone scramble to avoid Grexit
The past few days have been packed with events in the eurozone after Greek voters rejected a bailout deal proposed by international lenders in Sunday's referendum, which increased the debt-ridden country's risk of exit from the eurozone.
An emergency Eurogroup meeting in Brussels ended inconclusive on Tuesday afternoon, with lenders saying they didn't receive any meaningful proposals they had expected from Greece.
After a eurozone summit hours later, European Council President Donald Tusk urged the Greek government to specify its proposals for a comprehensive and specific reform agenda by Thursday at the latest.
In the gap of the two meetings, embattled Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Brussels behind closed doors.
"Until now I have avoided talking about deadlines (for a deal), but tonight I have to say it loud and clear -- the final deadline ends this week," said Tusk, warning that there were just five days to avoid the worst-case scenario and save Greece from bankruptcy.
He called on leaders of EU countries to try to find a consensus, stressing that the bankruptcy of Greece and the insolvency of its banking system will affect all Europe also in the geopolitical sense.
"If someone has any illusion that it will not be so, they are naive," he said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also talked about Grexit, saying the EU has already "a Grexit scenario prepared in detail."
The Greek side, however, seems much more confident about a final deal, with Tsipras saying discussions at the eurozone summit "was conducted in a positive climate."
"Our goal is to conclude the process successfully by the end of this week," he told reporters in Brussels.
According to government sources in Athens, the Greek side is requesting a two-year, 29-billion-euro (32 billion U.S. dollars) bailout program through the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
Meanwhile, several European partners prefer a bridge agreement for a few months first in exchange for a swift implementation of reforms by the Greek side as a test before a comprehensive deal is discussed.
Officials and analysts from both sides have warned that the situation is perilous.
"Now is the time to get round the table again," said Juncker.
"In Europe, there are no simple answers," he said. "Europe is all about compromise, and this takes time."
But time is what Greece does not have. Greek banks are closed and capital controls have been imposed in Greece since June 29, ATMs are expected to run out of cash this week, and without emergency assistance, Greece seems to be heading for defaults and a potential exit from the eurozone.
Since July 1, Greece has been in arrears to the International Monetary Fund and needs to repay 3.5 billion euros (3.85 billion U.S. dollars) in loan installments to the European Central Bank by July 20.
Many in Greece believed five years of strict austerity has drained its vitality as its March unemployment reached 25.6 percent.
Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, also found that 49.7 percent of Greeks aged between 15 and 24 were unemployed.
An articled by many renowned economists on Le Monde website called for new mentalities in efforts to tackle the Greek debt crisis.
Instead of an economic boost in Greece, the austerity in recent years has resulted in rocketing unemployment and banking sector bankruptcy, it said.
It called on Germany and the trio of the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to allow a restructuring of the Greek debt to keep it within the eurozone.
[Source: Xinhua, Brussels and Athens, 08Jul15]
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