Euro zone gives Greece a week to request bailout extension

Eurozone ministers gave Greece an ultimatum Monday to request an extension for its debt bailout program, despite Athens’ strong objections.

Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister, said after inconclusive talks in Brussels that Greece had the rest of the week to come into line.

The Greek government has thus far rejected that option, arguing that conditions attached to the bailout package have plunged the country into poverty.

If Athens decides to request an extension, the Eurozone finance ministers could meet again Friday to discuss options to ease some terms of the program. Another possibility, however, is that Greece could be forced out of the eurozone.

Greece and its European creditors began a new round of talks Monday in Brussels to discuss Athens’ request to renegotiate the country’s bailout financial program.

Expectations for a quick deal were low, since Germany, the major creditor, was maintaining a hardline stance, despite France’s call for a compromise.

Greece wants to replace its existing bailout deal of more than $273 billion form eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. The current bailout deal expires on February 28.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that he did not expect a solution would emerge from the meeting in Brussels.

“I am very skeptical, because the Greek government apparently hasn’t moved at all” in its demands, Schaeuble told reporters ahead of the talks. “I feel sorry for the Greeks at the moment. They have elected a government which is currently acting irresponsibly,” he said earlier on German public radio.

His French counterpart Michel Sapin, said, “What I would prefer today would be an extension of the program, which would provide some margin of security as well as time for discussion and negotiations.”

In an opinion piece published Monday in The New York Times, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said his government was not asking for the forgiveness of debt, but an interim few months period of financial stability.

Varoufakis also stated that Greece should not take any more loans until it had “a credible plan for growing economy.”

“Our government is not asking our partners for a way out of repaying our debts,” he wrote in the article. “We are asking for a few months of financial stability that will allow us to embark upon the task of reforms that the broad Greek population can own and support, so we can bring back growth and end our inability to pay our dues.”