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Greek Prime Minister Tells EU Leaders He Wants A United Europe

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras leaves an emergency summit of eurozone heads of state and government in Brussels on Tuesday.
Francois Walschaerts
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras leaves an emergency summit of eurozone heads of state and government in Brussels on Tuesday.

Facing a critical moment in his country's financial crisis, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took a more measured approach during a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday.

The BBC reports that Tsipras appealed for a united Europe and said he was confident he could present a proposal that would allow Greece to meet "its obligations in the interests of Greece and the eurozone."

Of course, the backdrop to all of this is dramatic: Just days ago, a majority of the Greek public approved a referendum rejecting a bailout deal that would have extended more credit to Greece in exchange for tough austerity measures. Using the result as leverage, Tsipras has insisted that any deal ultimately include discussions to cut Greece's nominal debt. That's something many European leaders — including Germany's Angela Merkel — have ruled out.

The BBC reports:

"There was a softness in the tone of Alexi Tsipras which shows he knows how to appeal to an audience. For the first time he stated explicitly that the problems facing Greece are not just the fault of the evil creditors.

"He said that for decades corruption and a 'politico-economic nexus' had been given a free hand — and that his government was committed to ending that. He also reached out to other peoples 'suffering under austerity' — a sign that he can see how it might hurt elsewhere in Europe for Greece to get special treatment.

"But on specifics, there was nothing. Certainly none of the detail which is supposed to be put down on paper between now and Friday. Instead, backed by his referendum victory on Sunday, Mr Tsipras stood his ground. Any deal had to offer the prospects of growth, and it had to include discussion of Greek debt."

So over the next few days, EU leaders expect Greece to hand over a proposal, which will be debated by European leaders. Reuters reports that the European Central Bank will keep Greek banks afloat until Sunday. If no deal is reached, the ECB will stop handing money to Greek banks, which may ultimately result in the Greek government printing its own money, marking its exit from the Euro.

Reuters reports:

"Merkel said if Athens came up with satisfactory proposals and took 'prior actions' by passing laws to convince creditors of its intent, short-term financing could be made available to help Greece over a repayment hump this summer.

"She did not rule out rescheduling Greek debt in the longer run by extending loan maturities, lowering interest rates and allowing a longer moratorium on debt service payments, but she said a 'haircut,' or writedown, was impossible because it would be illegal."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.