Juncker lets fly at Tsipras over comments on Greek debt standoff

‘I don’t have a personal problem with Tsipras but...friends have to respect some minimum rules’

German chancellor Angela Merkel  greets president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker as he arrives in  Krün in Germany for the G7 summit. Photograph: Michael Kappeler/EPA.

German chancellor Angela Merkel greets president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker as he arrives in Krün in Germany for the G7 summit. Photograph: Michael Kappeler/EPA.

 

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has let fly at Alexis Tsipras, expressing his “disappointment” at the Greek prime minister’s rejection of an offer by its creditors to resolve the debt standoff.

As G7 talks got underway in the Bavarian alps, 100 km south of Munich, Mr Juncker accused Mr Tsipras of misrepresenting in the Greek parliament their private talks and the latest offer from the EU/IMF institutions.

“I am waiting for an alternative proposal from our Greek counterparts, he presented the offer of institution as take it or leave it but this was not the case,” said Mr Juncker at a press conference on Sunday.

“There is a deadline (for Greece) but I didn’t say when - not to keep up the suspense but because I don’t want to say anything that would hurt Greece. ”

The hard-hitting remarks by Mr Juncker suggest Greece has now lost the support of someone who, until now, had been a more conciliatory partner than others in the long-running drama.

Particularly problematic for Mr Juncker appeared to be the different takes Mr Tsipras gave on the same meeting on Wednesday in Brussels and Athens. In Brussels, the Greek leader said “progress was made” after meeting Mr Juncker. Two days later, before the Greek parliament, he dismissed the EU-IMF proposals from that meeting as “absurd ... irrational, blackmailing demands”.

When Mr Tsipras tried to call Mr Juncker on Saturday, the commission president refused to take the call.

Instead he went on the warpath in Bavaria, rebuking the Greek leader for giving the Athens parliament what he viewed an inaccurate version of their talks on Wednesday.

Mr Juncker said it was “not the case” that Greece’s creditors had made a “take it or leave it” offer, nor were the proposals “mine exclusively”. The proposals were hammered out at a late-night meeting on Monday evening in Berlin.

“I don’t have a personal problem with Tsipras, he was my friend, he is my friend,”said Mr Juncker, “but...friends have to respect some minimum rules.”

The G7 talks at Elmau Castle in Krün, a Bavarian Alpine village, and will examine global growth, the fight against international terrorism and climate change.

But Mr Juncker conceded that, as well as unresolved situation with Russia over eastern Ukraine, growing international concern at the eurozone’s standoff with Greece meant the issue would feature in the high-level talks.

With Mr Tsipras absent, however, any progress between Greece and its creditors is likely at the EU-Latin America summit in Brussels on Wednesday.

The impatience among the head of the Brussels executive chief was clear when he said that he could not “pull a rabbit out of a hat” to prevent a Greek exit - but could not prevent its exit from the bloc if no alternatives were forthcoming from Greece.

Greece’s second EU-IMF programme is due to expire at the end of the month as talks to release a €7.2 billion funding tranche remain amid ongoing disagreement over what - if any - reforms Greece must implement before its creditors release the funds.

Before month’s end, Greece is on the hook to repay €1.5 billion in collated IMF loans after failing to make the first June payment last week. Additional bond repayments of €6.7 billion are looming in July and August.