Jun 30, 2015 8:00 PM
IMF: Greece misses $1.8 billion loan payment
The Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece (AP) The latest news on Greece's financial woes (all times local):
The International Monetary Fund says Greece missed a $1.8 billion debt payment Tuesday, becoming the first developed country to default on a loan to the lending agency.
Eurozone finance chiefs refused to grant a last-minute extension of the bailout program Greece has relied on for five years, and the Greek government couldn't come up with money on its own to pay the IMF. The IMF said its executive board would consider a Greek request to extend the loan.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called a referendum Sunday in which Greek voters can decide whether to approve a deal proposed by the country's creditors. A "No" vote would likely force Greece to stop using the euro currency.
The last country to miss an IMF loan payment was Zimbabwe in 2001.
Greece's international bailout has expired at 1 a.m. Tuesday, and with it any access the country could have to existing financing from its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund.
At the same time, the country defaulted on a roughly 1.6 billion euro IMF debt repayment, becoming the first developed country to fall into arrears on IMF payments.
The last country to do so was Zimbabwe in 2001.
Greece has suffered its second sovereign downgrade in as many days, as its bailout program was due to expire after five years.
Fitch ratings agency has slashed the country's rating further in junk status, from CCC to CC following a similar action Monday by Standard & Poor's. The rating is one notch above the level where Fitch says default is inevitable.
Fitch said: "The breakdown of the negotiations between the Greek government and its creditors has significantly increased the risk that Greece will not be able to honour its debt obligations in the coming months, including bonds held by the private sector."
The eurozone's top official, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, says "it would be crazy to extend" the Greek bailout beyond its midnight expiration since Greece won't accept the European proposals on the table.
Dijsselbloem said after a teleconference of the 19 eurozone finance ministers that a Greek request for a new European aid program would be considered later.
But after months of fruitless negotiations, Dijsselbloem said there was no point in continuing the current program since "all the proposals have been rejected and the Greek government has called a referendum and advised the people to vote no."
An EU official says that Greece's creditors did not agree Tuesday on a new bailout deal or extension for Greece and will instead, starting Wednesday, focus on a new plan for the country.
The official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not official, said "clearly no agreement tonight. They will reconvene tomorrow to discuss a follow-up agreement."
Greece had made a last-ditch proposal before its bailout program expires at the end of the day.
As a midnight deadline closes in, the head of the agency responsible for preserving financial security in the European Union says "it is regrettable" that Greece has no new bailout program in the pipeline.
Greece's European bailout program ends at the end of Tuesday, and the country has not managed to agree on an extension or a new deal with creditors.
European Financial Stability Facility chief Klaus Regling says the impasse puts "the positive results of the (current) program at risk."
The EFSF is Greece's largest creditor by far and the government in Athens has an outstanding loan for 130.9 billion euros ($145.9 billion).
A Greek government official says that the teleconference among eurozone finance ministers to discuss a last-minute deal proposal by Greece has ended.
The official adds that another will be held Wednesday morning so the ministers can examine the Greek proposals.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations, did not give details of the discussions.
Greece's foreign ministry says it's assessing how to assist Greeks abroad such as tourists, students or pensioners who are affected by the money controls.
The government has limited daily cash withdrawals to 60 euros. All credit or debit card payments abroad have been blocked, and any money transfers abroad need prior approval by a new committee.
The ministry says it has found a solution for Greek tourists abroad who awoke Monday to find their credit and debit cards no longer worked, and that a limit on those transactions would be determined later. It did not give further details, but said Greek consular authorities had been asked to be on alert to help Greek citizens.
The ministry says Greek students or patients hospitalized abroad would have to submit requests for approval of money transfers to the committee. A special provision is being worked on for Greek pensioners who live abroad to be able to access their pensions.
Thousands of people have gathered in Athens' main Syntagma Square outside Parliament to demonstrate in favor of a "yes" vote in Sunday's referendum.
Greeks have been called on to vote on whether to accept budget savings that creditors have proposed in exchange for loans. The government has called for a "no" vote.
Police say about 10,000-12,000 people were at Tuesday's demonstration, whose main slogan is "We're staying in Europe," before a thunderstorm broke. Many stayed despite the rain.
The protest comes the day after a similar demonstration with about 13,000 government supporters advocating a "no" vote.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she rules out further negotiations with Greece before the country holds a referendum on Sunday.
The dpa news agency quoted her as telling members of her party Tuesday night: "Before the planned referendum is carried out, we will not negotiate over anything new."
Greece has proposed a new two-year rescue deal for the country, whose European bailout program expires at the end of Tuesday. Eurozone finance ministers are holding a teleconference to discuss the proposal, though Merkel's comments indicate they would not try to reach a deal before Sunday's vote.
The eurozone's top official, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, says that the 19 finance ministers of the currency union will have a teleconference Tuesday evening to assess the latest proposals from Athens to keep the bailout negotiations going.
The ministers will have their conference only 5 hours before the European part of Greece's bailout program expires. The talks were broken off when Greece's prime minister announced a referendum over the weekend.
Dijsselbloem says in a tweet that he organized the meeting "to discuss official request of Greek government received this afternoon."
European Union officials say Greece would lose access to more than 16 billion euros ($18 billion) in financial support if its bailout program expires at midnight (2200 GMT).
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because contacts about the program were still ongoing, said three sources of money would disappear in the event of no agreement to extend the bailout.
These include 1.8 billion euros from the EU's financial stability fund, 10.9 billion euros from a Greek bank rescue fund, and a further 3.4 billion euros in central bank profits.
Greece can apply for some other form of assistance, but this could take weeks to organize. In that case, an assessment would first have to be made on whether Greece is eligible, what kind of terms the new package would function under and the kinds of reforms that Athens would undertake in return.
The prime minister's office says Greece remains at the negotiating table, and that the government has proposed a two-year deal with Europe's bailout fund.
Details over the offer with the European Stability Mechanism, which provides financial assistance to assure the joint currency's financial stability, were sketchy.
However, the prime minister's office said the deal would "fully cover its (Greece's) fiscal needs with the simultaneous restructuring of debt" and that the government "until the end will seek a viable solution within the euro."
The Greek finance ministry says it has posted on its Web page a list of about 1,000 branches of five banks which will open for three days from Wednesday for pensioners without bank cards, who will be able to make a one-time withdrawal of a maximum 120 euros for the week. However, the Web page was down on Tuesday afternoon.
The employees' association of the National Bank of Greece, which is one of the five, has called on authorities to ensure the banks have adequate police protection.
"The conditions that have developed make an essential requirement, for the operation of branches, for there to be sufficient police presence," the association said in a statement.
"For the avoidance of tension, friction and recrimination, there must be detailed and clear instructions about the transactions and every effort must be made to resolve the various problems that will arise during the transactions."
Problems have been reported in the payment of pensions from several funds in Greece as the country struggles in the face of an acute cash crunch.
Tens of thousands of retirees who were due to receive their pensions on Monday had not had the money credited to their bank accounts by the end of the day, although some were being paid on Tuesday afternoon, Greek media reported.
But under Greece's capital controls imposed Monday, the pensioners will only be able to withdraw a maximum 60 euros per day if they have bank cards and just 120 euros this week if they don't. Those that don't have bank cards will have to head to one of the roughly 1,000 bank branches that will open from Wednesday for three days so they can withdraw money.
UEFA, European soccer's governing body, says it will look at adapting its regulations to help Greek clubs should the financial crisis in the country turn "really bad."
Speaking after UEFA's executive committee met in Prague on Tuesday, general secretary Gianni Infantino says clubs in Greece "could find themselves in a very difficult situation due to something they're not responsible for."
He said Greek clubs have not yet approached UEFA with any request for help.
Turkish prime minister says his country is ready to help Greece overcome its economic crisis and is offering to expand cooperation in areas such as tourism, energy and trade.
Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey wants to live "in peace," and has no interest in seeing Greece "languish." Turkey and Greece have been long-time foes but the two countries have sought to build bridges over the past few years.
Davutoglu said Turkey would take steps to convene a high-level economic cooperation meeting between the two countries as soon as a new Turkish government is formed following what are expected to be drawn-out coalition talks.
An opposition legislator even suggested that Turkey help out with Greece's debt payment due to the IMF.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made clear she isn't aware of any breakthrough in talks with Greece over a bailout deal before tonight's deadline.
Asked whether there's still a chance of a deal before the European part of Greece's bailout comes to an end, Merkel said in Berlin that Greece's bailout program expires at midnight and she knew of "no solid indications to the contrary."
Still, Merkel said that doesn't mean there can't be talks.
"The door is open for talks that is all I can say at this hour," she said.
The European Commission has indicated that an assessment of Greece's overall debt situation and its financing needs could be part of a last-minute bailout deal.
Late Monday, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made a last-ditch effort to help Greece get a bailout deal, provided Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras campaigns for staying in the euro.
Beyond accepting proposals made by international creditors last weekend, Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said there would be unspecified discussions on Athens's massive debt load, which stood at 317 billion euros ($355 billion) at the end of 2014, or 177 percent of the country's annual GDP.
Juncker had expected an answer on that before midnight Monday, but round noon Tuesday, he was still waiting.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis confirmed that the country will not make its payment due later to the International Monetary Fund.
When asked outside the Finance Ministry about whether Greece will pay the 1.6 billion euros due to the IMF, Varoufakis said "no."
His comment came amid speculation that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is trying to craft some sort of last-minute deal with creditors before the payment is due and before the European part of Greece's bailout comes to an end.
A Greek official said Tsipras has spoken with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and European Parliament president Martin Schulz.
The official did not reveal what was discussed.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says the most damaging aspect of a Greek exit from the euro would be the cloud of doubt it would cast over the irreversibility of the currency.
Interviewed on Spain's COPE radio Tuesday, Rajoy said that in the event of a Greek exit, people could think that "maybe another country could abandon it in the future. I think that would be the most serious problem that this could generate."
Rajoy said a Greek exit would not be the best news for either Greece or Europe "but Europe would continue with the euro."
A "no" vote in Sunday's referendum on creditor proposals would leave Greece with no option but to leave the euro, Rajoy added.
Stock markets across Europe trimmed earlier losses amid speculation that the Greek government is considering a last-minute effort by the head of the European Commission to break the deadlock between the country and its creditors.
Jean-Claude Juncker has made a last-ditch effort to help Greece get a bailout deal, provided Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras campaigns for staying in the euro.
"Deep down there is a sense that some sort of compromise will be reached before the deadline it's the eurozone way," said David Madden, market analyst at IG.
The Stoxx 50 index of leading European shares was down only 0.4 percent, having earlier traded more than 1 percent lower.
The Kremlin has brushed off speculation that it could lend money to Greece.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has visited Russia twice since April, stoking speculation that Athens could be seeking financial aid from Moscow which is eager to leverage the pro-Russian stance of the new Greek government.
A Russian deputy prime minister said earlier this month that Russia could consider a loan to Greece.
But Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, insisted that financial help is not on the agenda. Peskov said in comments carried by Russia news agencies that providing financial assistance to Greece "is a matter .... between Greece and its creditors and not ours."
The scale of the economic pain inflicted upon Greece by years of recession and strict austerity was evident in official figures showing unemployment in the country stood at 25.6 percent in March.
Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, also said found that 49.7 percent of those aged between 15 and 24 were unemployed.
Though both rates are down from the peaks they hit a couple of years back, they do still show the scale of the economic retreat in the country. The ranks of the unemployed were major supporters of Syriza in its election victory earlier this year.
Just hours before the European part of Greece's bailout program expires, Europe's main banking lobby group urged the country and its creditors to make a last-ditch effort to secure a deal.
But it insisted that the banking sector would weather any crisis.
The Brussels-based European Banking Federation said Tuesday that banks "have significantly reduced their exposures to Greece, limiting the risk of contagion through the banking system to other countries."
It said "the European economic and financial system is sufficiently robust to deal with possible adverse impacts" once the program ends.
The Greek Finance Ministry says it will open about 1,000 bank branches across the country for three days from Wednesday to allow pensioners without bank cards to make withdrawals but for a total of just 120 euros ($134) for the week.
It was unclear why they would not be allowed to withdraw the 60-euro daily limit.
Meanwhile, irate depositors called in to television stations to report that some ATMs in Athens had run out of 20-euro notes, leaving them dispensing 50 euro notes only.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, has made a last-ditch effort to help Greece get a bailout deal, provided Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras campaigns for staying in the euro.
An EU official, official who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity for the talks, called it "a sort of last-minute offer" before Greece's bailout program runs out later and Athens needs to make a 1.6 billion euro ($1.8 billion) debt payment to the IMF.
Under the offer, Tsipras would need to write to Junker and other leaders saying he accepts the offer which was on the negotiating table last weekend. He would also have to change his position on Sunday's referendum. Tsipras has said he will urge a vote against creditors' proposals.
The mood in European financial markets remained edgy amid growing expectations that Greece will not make a repayment to the International Monetary Fund.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Monday the payment would not be made if there is no deal with creditors over extending Greece's bailout.
In early trading, the Stoxx 50 index of leading European shares was down 0.9 percent while Germany's DAX fell 0.7 percent.
On Monday, stocks slid in the wake of Greece's decision to call a referendum for July 5 on creditors' bailout proposals and to impose controls on capital.