Failing to reach a deal would hurt not only Greek economy but also rest of Europe, officials on both sides warn.
Thousands of people have rallied in Athens against Greece’s international creditors amid warnings that the debt-ridden country’s future in the EU is at risk.
Some 3,000 Greeks of all ages gathered outside the Greek parliament on Wednesday to back the leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who has resisted the EU-IMF creditors’ push for more austerity measures.
The protesters called on the international creditors to respect the mandate the Greek people gave to the leftist Syriza party, which won the January parliamentary elections on an anti-austerity plank.
The protesters used colourful banners in front of the parliament reading, “Our lives don’t belong to the lenders,” and chanted “the red lines must be respected”, referring to the government’s red lines in the talks that have dragged for over five months.
Greece’s Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis who joined the protesters repeated the government’s commitment to end austerity, as European finance ministers meet on Thursday in the last ditch effort to strike a deal.
“We are pleased because the people are sending their own message to our partner creditors, that the proposals they have submitted are not generous and will further lead the country to a dead end,” said Voutsis.
On Tuesday the Greek prime minister accused creditors of trying to “humiliate” his country by demanding more budget cuts to unlock desperately needed frozen aid.
Greece said the terms of the previous bailout loans are too tough, and on Sunday, the government failed to renegotiate the deal with its creditors and unlock more funds it needs to make a $1.8bn repayment to the IMF by the end of this month. Another $7.5bn will need to be repaid in July and August.
The country has been surviving financially on a $270bn bailout by the Troika – the European Central Bank, the European Commission and IMF.
Earlier, the Greek Central Bank warned that the country was on a “painful course” towards default, and exiting the eurozone – and possibly even the European Union.
Recent opinion polls show a majority of Greeks want to remain in the eurozone, but there has also been deep resentment of the cuts demanded of Greece, which has seen its economy shrink by more than 25 percent since the start of the crisis.
Highlighting the fraying tempers, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies accused Athens on Wednesday of not grasping the seriousness of the situation.