It was supposed to be a meeting to discuss the more mundane topic of Europe’s “digital agenda.”
Instead, a Monday night gathering of leaders in Berlin was turned into a crisis meeting over Greece, the beleaguered member of the euro that could be forced to default on its state debts and even exit the 19-nation currency bloc within the next month.
The unannounced meeting was a veritable “who’s who” of the key European players in the ongoing Greek drama. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had originally planned to meet just with French President Francois Hollande and E.U. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. With Greece on the brink, the gathering was expanded to include the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, and the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, both of whom flew in specially.
Notably absent was Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who Handelsblatt on Monday reported was hoping to get a last-minute invite. Instead, the meeting seemed designed for international creditors to iron out a final common line in the ongoing crisis talks with Athens.
For his part, Mr. Tsipras surprisingly announced that he had already submitted his own counterproposal late Tuesday morning, telling reporters in Athens: “We have prepared a realistic plan for Greece to end the crisis.”
This week could be decisive in the more than five-year old crisis over Greece and its place in the euro zone, a 15-year-old currency bloc that has expanded its membership and now stretches from Ireland in the west to Latvia in the east of the European continent.