THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The chairman of the Eurogroup said on Tuesday Greece was on track to default at midnight and Athens’ stance towards its creditors would have to change before its euro zone partners could consider any additional financial assistance.
Speaking after an emergency conference call between the currency bloc’s finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said a last minute request by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to extend Greece’s bailout program had fallen on deaf ears.
“We’re beyond that point, it comes too late,” he told Reuters.
He said that as a member of the euro zone and European Union, Greece was welcome to request a new assistance program, but it would come with strings attached.
“That is quite a procedure to go through,” he said. “In the meantime the situation in Greece, the economy, the Greek banks, has deteriorated, unfortunately even more, so that’s a difficult path to consider.”
Dijsselbloem, who is also the Netherlands’ finance minister, said any new program might impose tougher conditions than the previous one.
Tsipras broke off talks with the Eurogroup, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank on June 27 and called for a national referendum on whether to accept a euro zone offer which he personally opposes.
Dijsselbloem said the Eurogroup would hold a new conference call on Greece at 0930 GMT (5.30 a.m. EDT) on Wednesday.
However, he said no new program could be agreed until after Greeks had voted in the referendum on July 5, and until the government’s attitude changes.
He described the referendum as a “domestic political matter” but said it stands in the way of any new aid package, especially with Tsipras recommending a ‘no’ vote.
“The only thing we can do is wait for the outcome and then to see whether there is grounds to continue helping Greece, and in what way,” he said.
“What can change is the political stance of the Greek government that has led to this unfortunate situation,” he said.
Dijsselbloem said it was not certain that a Greek default would necessarily lead to an exit from the euro zone.
“I think there are many options, but it would require a positive stance from the Greek government,” he said.
Editing by Robin Pomeroy
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