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Greece's Tsipras Confronting EU Leaders on Bailout

  • Reuters

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel poses with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras (L) ahead of a meeting in Brussels, Feb. 12, 2015.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel poses with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras (L) ahead of a meeting in Brussels, Feb. 12, 2015.

Greece's new leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is directly confronting other heads of state in the European Union Thursday about easing the austerity measures they imposed on Athens in exchange for its massive bailouts.

The EU leaders are meeting in Brussels in the first direct showdown between the 40-year-old Greek leader and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, austerity's chief advocate. The German and other EU leaders have shown little interest in cutting Athens's debt or renegotiating its $300 billion in loans.

As he arrived for the EU summit, Tsipras said, "I want to say that Europe stands at a crucial point for its future. We will need to find a solution that respects the positions of all parties, so this agreement will have to be based on the core values of Europe, democracy and the vote of the people, but also on the necessity to respect the European rules."

The new Greek government's conflict with the rest of Europe was underscored Wednesday as EU finance ministers were unable to agree with Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis on a joint statement after seven hours of emergency negotiations.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chairman of the eurozone finance ministers, said not enough progress was made to even agree on what to talk about when the two sides meet again Monday.

"We didn't actually go into detailed proposals, we didn't enter into negotiations on content of the program or a program, we simply tried to work next steps over the next couple days. We were unable to do that," Dijsselbloem said.

Greece's new government, elected last month, has rejected seeking an extension of its loans when the latest segment expires at the end of February.

Rather, Greece wants its lenders -- the other 18 countries in Europe's euro currency bloc, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- to give it a bridge loan for several months. Athens says it needs the time to negotiate changes to the austerity plan forced on the country under which wages and pensions have been cut, taxes boosted and thousands of civil servants laid off.

European officials have shown no indication of any willingness to ease the terms.

Dijsselbloem told his parliament earlier this week, "An agreement is an agreement. That means that within the (bailout) program, measures could be exchanged for other measures."