PARIS - The European Union has two crucial issues on the agenda at its two-day summit underway in Brussels (Thursday-Friday), with migration and the Greek financial crisis still unresolved. Greece is perhaps the most pressing issue for the Europeans, as a June 30 deadline looms for Athens to pay its creditors or face a possible exit from the eurozone.
European Union leaders held out hope the deadlock over resolving the Greek financial crisis will soon be resolved. Heading into the summit Thursday afternoon, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras offered a positive spin.
“I think that European history is full of disagreements, negotiations and then compromises. So after the comprehensive Greek proposals, I am confident that we will reach a compromise that will help the eurozone and Greece overcome the crisis,” he said.
EU President Donald Tusk was also cautiously upbeat.
"Work is underway and for sure it will still need many hours," he said. "The last hours have been really critical. But I have a good hunch that unlike Sophocles tragedies, this Greek story will have a happy end.”
No agreement in sight
But that happy ending is not in sight. A meeting earlier in the day between Greece and its creditors failed to reach agreement on a bailout deal. Without it, Greece will not get its next chunk of bailout funds it needs, and likely be unable to pay the $1.8 billion it owes the International Monetary Fund by June 30.
A Greek debt default raises chances that Athens will exit the 19-member euro currency union, and, some warn, even the European Union.
That’s a scenario neither side wants. But so far, Athens and its creditors remain at odds over the types of reforms Greece must make.
French President Francois Hollande sounded impatient as he talked to reporters before the summit.
Hollande said an agreement was possible and necessary, and the sooner the disagreements were overcome, the better. He said the differences were not over what Greece must do, but the way of getting there. Greece was running out of time, he said.
Leaders were supposed to approve a final deal during this summit.
The Greek debt crisis is likely to overshadow what is supposed to be the main topic of the EU meeting, how to handle the tens of thousands of migrants arriving in Europe. Southern countries like Italy, Greece and Malta are shouldering most of the burden.
EU President Tusk says he expects the 28-member bloc will send a strong message against illegal migration, but countries are sharply divided over how to handle asylum seekers.