Greece and its European creditors began a new round of talks Monday to discuss Athens’ request to renegotiate the country’s bailout financial program.
Expectations for a quick deal seem to be dashed, since Germany, the major creditor, is maintaining a hard-line stance, despite France’s call for a compromise.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he did not expect a solution to emerge from the meeting, which started at 3 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) in Brussels.
“I am very skeptical, because the Greek government apparently hasn't moved at all” in its demands, Schaeuble told reporters ahead of the talks. "I feel sorry for the Greeks at the moment. They have elected a government which is currently acting irresponsibly," he said earlier on German public radio.
His French counterpart, Michel Sapin, said he would prefer "an extension of the program, which would provide some margin of security as well as time for discussion and negotiations.''
‘Few months of financial stability’
In an opinion piece published in The New York Times Monday, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said his government was not asking for "a way out of repaying our debts. We are asking for a few months of financial stability that will allow us to embark upon the task of reforms that the broad Greek population can own and support, so we can bring back growth and end our inability to pay our dues."
Varoufakis also stated that Greece should not take any more loans until it had "a credible plan for growing economy."
Greece wants to replace its existing bailout deal of more than $273 billion from eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. It wants a short-term agreement that can keep it solvent after February 28, when the current bailout deal ends.
If Monday's meeting ends without agreement, Greece could be faced with credit default and could be forced out of the eurozone.
Progress toward an agreement would raise hope for further negotiations, perhaps later in the week.
The government of radical leftist Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was elected in January after promising to end the bailout and ease austerity measures. It has rejected seeking a loan extension.