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Greece Gives Europe Its Latest Economic Reform Plan

  • VOA News

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras leaves Maximos Mansion for a meeting with party leaders at the Presidential Palace in central Athens, Greece, July 6, 2015.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras leaves Maximos Mansion for a meeting with party leaders at the Presidential Palace in central Athens, Greece, July 6, 2015.

Greece on Thursday delivered its latest proposal for economic reforms to European finance ministers who must decide whether they will grant the struggling government another desperately needed bailout.

Little information was available about what was in the new package from Athens. But reports said it included EU demands for a boost in some sales taxes and cuts in spending.

The Greek parliament will meet Friday to decide whether to endorse the reforms, and the entire 28-member European Union will hold an emergency summit on the Greek situation Sunday.

Some EU leaders said this was absolutely Greece's last chance to satisfy their demands. They have been frustrated by what has so far been Athens' refusal to carry out more austerity measures.

But Greeks said they have suffered enough from spending and pension cuts that have cost jobs and lowered their standards of living. The government has demanded a debt restructuring from the International Monetary Fund.

Greece has amassed its debt in two bailouts during the past five years. Now, its economy is in sharp decline, and a quarter of its workforce is unemployed.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has been one of the staunchest voices against extending Greece's economic lifeline, appeared to soften a bit Thursday when he conceded that Greece might need some restructuring of its $265 billion bailout debt load in order for its economy to regain a solid footing.

But he said there could be no outright reduction of the debt because "it would infringe on the system of the European Union and, after all, the European Union is a community of common laws."

Failure of Greece and the EU to reach a deal could lead to Greece's ouster from the eurozone — the 19 European nations that use the euro as a common currency.

Sources of Greek Debt

Sources of Greek Debt

European stock exchanges posted sharp gains Thursday amid hopes Greece's fractious relationship with the rest of Europe might be salvaged before the Sunday deadline to reach a deal the other eurozone countries imposed on Athens.

Watch video report from VOA's Henry Ridgwell:

Greece defaulted on a $1.8 billion loan payment to the International Monetary Fund last week when European finance ministers refused to extend the bailout that would have allowed Greece to pay the IMF.

Since then, Greek banks have closed and withdrawals at cash machines have been limited to just $67 a day. Many store shelves are bare and gas stations dry, with no one knowing exactly what is going to happen next.

Greek voters rejected more austerity in a referendum last Sunday. While some Greeks say it is essential for the country to remain a part of Europe economically, "no" voters accused the EU creditors of humiliating and enslaving them.

Greece's economic troubles began in earnest in 2009 when it was revealed that the old conservative government had badly underreported the country's debt. The revelations came during the same time the global recession began to worsen.

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