European lenders on Tuesday played down Greek hopes of a swift end to negotiations on an aid agreement and warned talks must speed up before the country runs out of cash.
A sober outlook from Brussels and Berlin contrasted sharply with vigorous optimism displayed in Athens, where top officials from the new leftist government made a series of public appearances to promise a deal was just days away.
Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told a talk show overnight that a deal could arrive in a week, while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had earlier said talks were in their “final stretch”.
The comments helped push Greek stocks up nearly 2 percent on Tuesday, but euro zone policymakers said talks were not moving nearly as fast as needed to clinch a deal in a short time.
“More time and effort is needed to bridge the gaps on the remaining open issues. We consider that progress is being made, albeit at a slow pace,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a daily news briefing.
The Commission also denied a Greek newspaper report that its chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, had offered a compromise proposal to break the impasse in talks, which set a lower primary surplus target for Athens in return for tax reforms and tax hikes.
After a meeting in Berlin, the leaders of Germany and France said talks between Greece and its creditors must be accelerated to free up further loans to Athens.
“I’d say the talks need to speed up, rather than that they are going too fast, and we hope the relevant forum – the Brussels (negotiating) Group – can make clear progress because the agreement in February was that a program should be set up by the end of May,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference.
French President Francois Hollande agreed the talks with Greece needed to be “accelerated”, adding: “We all have the same stance which is that Greece must stay in the euro zone.”