ATHENS — An emergency summit of European leaders called to salvage Greece’s financial rescue broke up acrimoniously late Tuesday night, with officials saying the country now has just five days to avoid bankruptcy.
Following a day’s worth of talks aimed at finding a way out of months of bitter deadlock, European leaders were scathing in their assessments of Greece’s proposals, calling them inadequate and demanding the Greek government return with a detailed plan by Thursday.
The leaders of all 28 European Union members will then meet Sunday in what officials said will be the final chance to save Greece from economic oblivion — or the moment the country is ejected from the euro zone.
“The stark reality is that we only have five days to find the ultimate agreement,” said a visibly irritated Donald Tusk, the European Council president. “Until now I have avoided talking about deadlines. But tonight I have to say it loud and clear — the final deadline ends this week.”
Standing at his side at E.U. headquarters in Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pounded the lectern as he announced that Europe has detailed plans for Greece’s exit from the euro zone — known as “Grexit” — and for delivering humanitarian aid to Athens.
“I’m strongly against Grexit,” he said. “But I can’t prevent it if the Greek government is not doing what we expect the Greek government to do.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a starkly different account of the meetings, saying that they were “positive” and that he had outlined proposals for a “socially just and economically viable agreement.”
The wildly different accounts suggest how difficult it will be to reach a deal in time to pull Greece back from the edge of an abyss that both sides have said for months they are desperate to avoid.
Greece’s radical leftist government had been widely expected to present a new, detailed plan to finance ministers at a meeting Tuesday, just two days after a referendum in which Greek voters emphatically rejected Europe’s latest proposed cuts-for-cash deal. Before the vote, Tsipras promised he could strike an agreement with Europe “within 48 hours” if voters backed him — as they did.
But instead of a formal blueprint, Greece’s new finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, spoke from handwritten notes about his country’s intentions to rein in costs and prop up its creaky fiscal underpinnings while avoiding some of the tough austerity measures that Greece’s creditors have demanded.
European officials were incredulous that Greece had not come better prepared, especially with the country’s banking system subsisting from day to day and likely needing a fresh infusion of cash from the European Central Bank on Wednesday just to stay in business.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, president of euro-zone finance ministers, said it was not clear what the Greeks were offering or whether it would meet the standards Europe has set for authorizing a new multibillion-euro bailout.
“In the eyes of the euro group, the problems in Greece do really need credible reforms,” he said. “And, therefore, we need to hear from the Greek government whether they have such reforms in mind.”
Hours later, after the leaders had dined on cod and chocolate mousse and Tsipras had made his own presentation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there still was not sufficient detail to formally restart negotiations.
“We respect the results of the referendum of one country, but we have 18 other countries where political decisions are also discussed,” Merkel said after the meeting. “We have only a few days left to find a solution.”
Greece — with a debt mountain of more than 180 percent of its gross domestic product — owes 3.5 billion euros to the European Central Bank on July 20 but has no money with which to pay. Last week, the country became the first developed nation to miss a repayment to the International Monetary Fund.
If Greece leaves the euro zone, the results could be catastrophic for a country that has already endured the worst economic collapse of any developed nation since the end of World War II. Greece has been in a downward spiral since 2010, and the past 10 days have been the most difficult for the country since its debt crisis began.
The banks are by far the most pressing concern. ATM withdrawals have been limited to 60 euros (about $67) per person a day, but without a fresh infusion of cash, Greece’s lenders may not have enough even to sustain those meager withdrawals beyond Wednesday.
Restrictions on international payments have resulted in shortages of certain foods and medicines. Many people are resigned to the idea that they will not see their next paycheck soon.
Michael Kandarakis, an Athens Chamber of Commerce board member, said that many companies have put their employees on mandatory vacation because there is so little work for them to do.
“Everybody’s waiting to see what will happen,” he said. “Personally, I’m very worried.”
European officials say they believe the impact of a Greek exit from the euro could be contained. But no one knows how it could play out, because in the 16-year history of the euro, no member has ever left.
With so much at stake in Europe, President Obama on Tuesday ramped up his involvement, speaking in separate conversations to Merkel and to Tsipras. The White House said Obama and Merkel discussed the need “to reach a durable agreement that will allow Greece to resume reforms, return to growth, and achieve debt sustainability within the Eurozone.”
But that prodding appeared to do little to bridge a divide that has only widened as Greece’s crisis has deepened.
Tuesday was supposed to be the day when Greece and Europe forged a better path following the resignation Monday of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, whose abrasive style had alienated his negotiating partners.
No specific details of Tsakalotos’s presentation were made public. But a photo gave a clue of the tone. Tsakalotos held notes, written on hotel stationery, that included the words “no triumphalism” — an apparent reminder not to gloat after the Sunday referendum.
Dijsselbloem said Tuesday afternoon that he expected a detailed Greek proposal by Wednesday morning, when Tsipras is also due to address the European Parliament. Juncker later said the deadline for a Greek proposal was Friday morning, while an official statement said it was Thursday — discrepancies that reflected the confused and fluid nature of the situation.
Even as several European officials expressed grave disappointment with Tuesday’s talks, others held out hope that the worst outcomes can still be avoided. French President François Hollande said France will do “everything to save all those who wanted this Europe.”
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he was optimistic that “we can achieve an agreement on Sunday.”
Analysts, too, said there remained reason to think the two sides can reach a last-minute deal — but only because the dire circumstances in Greece have left no doubt about the potential consequences.
“The cost of a Grexit is quite awful for everyone, but especially for Greece,” said George Pagoulatos, a University of Athens economist. “And now it’s very clear: It’s an agreement or Grexit.”
Ylan Q. Mui in Athens and Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.