donald tusk.jpg
Photograph: EPA/PATRICK SEEGER

EU President Donald Tusk urged finance ministers on Wednesday to seek a rapid breakthrough in Greek bailout negotiations, seemingly rejecting a request by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to escalate the issue to the level of eurozone leaders.

Athens is struggling to reach agreement with its international creditors on reforms and cost-cutting measures needed to secure a new tranche of bailout aid, four months since the cash-strapped country received its last disbursement.

Tsipras planned to request a special summit of eurozone leaders, a government spokesman in Athens told dpa. But Tusk did not publicly endorse the idea, following talks with the Greek premier on Wednesday morning.

"I am convinced that there is still more work to be done by the ministers of finance, who have to avoid a situation of renewed uncertainty for Greece," Tusk said in Brussels.

The previous evening, a Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers envisaged for Thursday was shelved due to a lack of progress.

"We need a specific date for the new Eurogroup meeting in the not distant future, and I am talking not about weeks but about days," Tusk added, noting that he was in contact with Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Last week, the Eurogroup asked for a set of new cost-cutting measures totalling around 2 per cent of Greek gross domestic product that would be implemented if Greece's finances go awry. That would amount to about 3.5 billion euros (3.9 billion dollars) based on last year's figure. 

This comes on top of a previously required package of reforms and cost-cutting measures amounting to 3 per cent of Greece's GDP. 

The contingency measures would have to be "credible," and come into place automatically in case of a financial deterioration, Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, said after a Eurogroup meeting on Friday.

The Washington-based institution has been sceptical of economic forecasts used by Greece's European creditors.

The two packages of cost-cutting measures would clear the way for the next tranche of aid to be disbursed under Greece's third bailout, which totals 86 billion euros, Dijsselbloem said Friday.

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