Europe at 'turning point' in bailout row: Greece's Tsipras

Europe at 'turning point' in bailout row: Greece's Tsipras
A man begs for money in central Athens on February 12, 2015. Greece's new prime minister Alexis Tsipras confronts European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel at his first summit Thursday, after his anti-austerity government failed to get a deal on renegotiating its huge bailout.

BRUSSELS - Greece's new prime minister Alexis Tsipras warned Thursday that Europe was at a critical crossroads as he prepared to discuss the row over the country's huge bailout at a summit in Brussels.

"We are at a crucial turning point for Europe," Tsipras said after meeting his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel, hours before a summit of the 28 European Union leaders was set to begin.

"We have to prove that Europe can find a solution, respect the positions that the parties take, and combine respect for democracy with European rules," Tsipras said.

Tsipras is set to confront European leaders at the summit with Greece's demands to change its bailout. It will be his first encounter with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe's most powerful leader who is firmly opposed to making new concessions to Athens.

Tsipras' warning followed the breakdown of talks on the Greek debt crisis between eurozone finance ministers Wednesday night, with a make-or-break meeting now set for Monday.

Tsipras insisted his government had a plan for a new bailout that could satisfy both the austerity-fatigued Greeks and European partners tired of rescuing Greece.

"The time has come to change the policies applied (in Greece) with structural reforms left alone by the previous government, such as tax evasion, corruption and cronyism," Tsipras said.

"We must set an agenda that is based on growth and the respect of social cohesion," the 40-year-old premier said.

Belgium's Michel said he was optimistic the eurozone's 19 members could find a solution, even if this required a special effort.

"The solution is delicate and difficult. We need determination and will," he said.

"The magic of Europe has always been to find solutions even when we thought it impossible. I am convinced that this magic will end up working," Michel said.

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