No more time to gamble: Salvation or bust for Greece says EU chief

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The president of the European Union has warned Greece that the coming week should prove decisive in Athens’ quest to stave off bankruptcy.

Donald Tusk, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, said “there is no more time for gambling” and that next week’s meeting of the 19 eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg could be the make-or-break session in sealing Athens’s fate.

Cutting through days of dense diplomatic talk about the state of negotiations between struggling Greece and its international creditors, Mr Tusk said it was time for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to stop stalling for time with unworkable demands. “The Greek government has to be, I think, a little bit more realistic,” he said.

For months, Greece has wrangled with its creditors over the release of the remaining funds in its bailout. Without the 7.2 billion euro available, Greece faces imminent bankruptcy, putting up capital controls and even leaving the euro.

“The days coming, I am afraid that someone says that the game is over,” Mr Tusk said. The eurozone’s finance ministers meet in Luxembourg in a week’s time, in a meeting that according to Mr Tusk “should be decisive”. By the end of the month, Greece has a big repayment to make to the International Monetary Fund.

EU Commission President Jean-Paul Juncker also said it was time to push up the gears. “You have to get the cow off the ice, where it keeps on slipping. We are trying to push it off again now,” he said ahead of a meeting with Mr Tsipras.

Hopes of progress have swelled after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Athens had committed to resolve the impasse with creditors in coming days.

Stock markets across Europe have rallied, particularly in Greece, as officials sounded optimistic that a deal could be reached in time for next week’s meeting. The creditors have made clear that Greece must improve its offer of reforms needed in return for the bailout loans.

Mrs Merkel said that in overnight talks with Mr Tsipras a clear consensus emerged that “Greece will now work emphatically and at full steam with the three institutions”.