Greece ‘is a cow’: behind the scenes of an accord collapsing

By Ciline Loubette ,AFP

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Greece is a cow slipping on ice that must be pushed to firm ground, says European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, employing a rustic metaphor for painful days of trying to save headstrong Athens from default and catastrophe. Last week no less than 60 delegations descended on the European Union capital of Brussels for a Europe-Latin America summit.

But the spotlight did not shine on the high wattage smile of Brazil’s Dilma Roussef, nor on Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and her fluency in German. Instead it focused Alexis Tsipras, the 40-year old Greek premier, who was discreetly on the hunt for yet another meeting with the EU’s most powerful leader, Germany’s Angela Merkel. Tsipras, whose latest reforms-for-cash proposal was roundly dismissed as 46 pages of ��leftist ideology�� by exasperated European officials, was treading dangerous waters. Europe’s negotiators are weary of the young man’s maneuvering, even though the good-natured Juncker always tousles his hair or pecks him on the cheek when he joins Tsipras for the cameras. At the last minute this week, Tsipras won his meeting with Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. ��When there’s a will there’s a way,�� the German leader said hopefully �X a mantra she repeats often.

‘It’s all very civil’ After a fish dinner with the Latin Americans, the trio sat down Wednesday in a soulless corporate office somewhere high in the EU summit tower. ��There’s no screaming, no fighting, it’s all very civil,�� an observer told AFP. ��Merkel portrays herself as someone seeking a solution.�� The sit-down ended with the three agreeing that negotiations need to be ��intensified,�� which was enough to send the Athens stock market soaring by 8 percent the next morning. Speaking in his native Luxembourgish that morning, Juncker made the bovine comparison to Greece, nation of the minotaur. ��We continue to try to push it.��

French FinanceMminister Michel Sapin stuck to travel metaphors, saying the Greece negotiations are ��now truly on the right track.��