Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with government and political leaders Thursday to finalize details of the debt-laden country’s last-ditch request for a fresh bailout. (Reuters)

Greece offered to make painful spending cuts and hike taxes Thursday in a final gambit to win one more bailout from Europe before the country descends into bankruptcy.

This debt-laden country is seeking at least 50 billion euros ($55 billion) over the next three years, according to government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive negotiations. In return, it laid out a blueprint of austerity measures that the officials said total between 12 billion and 13 billion euros ($13 billion to $14 billion) — significantly more than Greece’s previous commitments.

The move brings Greece one step closer to a deal with its European creditors, who plan to make a final decision Sunday about whether to throw this Mediterranean nation a lifeline or watch it slide out of the common euro currency. And after more than five fitful months of negotiations, the bar for reaching an agreement is high.

Government leaders will bring the proposal before the Greek Parliament on Friday as a display of good faith to European leaders. Greece has a reputation as a money pit among Europe’s richer nations and must make a convincing case that it is prepared to conduct a bruising fiscal housecleaning in order to receive new aid.

A spokesman for Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem confirmed via Twitter on Thursday that the group had received Greece’s proposal, stating that it is “important for institutions to consider.” European finance ministers will review the plan Saturday before sending it on to European Union heads of state on Sunday.

Greece’s creditors have demanded that the country slash its budget by cutting spending rather than raising taxes, which the country is notoriously bad at collecting.

The highly technical proposal released Thursday did not make immediately clear how much of the savings would come from cuts or tax increases.

One of the biggest roadblocks in the past five months of negotiations has been Greece’s generous pension system. Under the latest proposal, Athens said it planned to discourage workers from taking earlier retirement and increase the amount they must pay toward health care, among other measures. The moves would reduce spending on the benefits by 0.25 to 0.50 percent of the country’s gross domestic product this year. By 2016, it promised another 1 percentage point of GDP in savings.

However, the total austerity package is estimated to be significantly larger than the one voters overwhelmingly rejected Sunday in a hastily called referendum.

If Greece cannot reach a deal with its creditors, it could be forced out of the euro zone, an unraveling that would leave many other nations frayed and fearful.

For the architects of the zone, led by Germany and France, it would mark a deep blow to their dreams of ever-closer European integration.

On a wider stage, leaders from Washington to Moscow have raised concerns about disruptions to world markets and potential security concerns on Mediterranean shores already struggling with a flow of migrants from Asia and Africa.


In Greece, banks are almost out of money and have been closed for nearly two weeks. Customers are able to withdraw only 60 euros in cash each day to prevent a run on the country’s financial system.

Long lines snake from ATMs across the country, and many stores have stopped accepting debit cards. Citizens cannot transfer money outside the country, effectively prohibiting online purchases on Amazon and iTunes and causing shortages of imported food and medicines.

Bulgaria — the E.U.’s poorest country — has even offered to provide aid to its southern neighbor.

“This government has the responsibility to bring this deal,” said Kostas Karagounis, spokesman of the opposition party New Democracy. “We’re waiting.”

There was still hope, however, that the two sides were moving closer to a possible breakthrough.

European Council President Donald Tusk told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday that a credible proposal from Athens should be met with a “realistic” solution from Europe to handling the Mediterranean nation’s crushing debt load.

“Only then will we have a win-win situation,” Tusk said. “Otherwise, we will continue the lethargic dance we have been dancing for the past five months.”

German officials have been some of the staunchest opponents of debt forgiveness, but on Thursday they left the door slightly open to creative bargaining that could give Greece a measure of what it wants. During a visit to Bosnia, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “a classic haircut” would be a nonstarter.

Analysts said her comments indicated that she was ruling out a plan that simply cut the total amount of debt but that she could be more open to possible concessions such as greater flexibility in repayment or lower interest rates.

“Angela Merkel chose this wording, because in the past five years, she has always publicly rejected a debt haircut,” said Julian Rappold, an expert on Greece and the European Union at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

“She has to justify to the German population that their tax money will be lost. It has been a mistake in communication to always say, ‘No, this is not going to happen, these are only loans.’ ”

Speaking alongside his French counterpart on Thursday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble — seen as even more hawkish on Greece than Merkel — insisted that a “haircut,” or outright debt forgiveness, would violate E.U. laws.

But even he conceded that Greece’s current debt was no longer sustainable, although there were few options for dealing with it.

“I think the leeway we have thanks to the restructuring of debt or the reprofiling of debt is very low,” he said.