Europe German leaders admonish Greece ahead of referendum

German leaders admonish Greece ahead of referendum

Chancellor Angela Merkel
Chancellor Angela Merkel

Chancellor Merkel emphasised that despite the situation in Greece, Europe is stable and intends to “calmly” await the Greek referendum, while Finance Minister Schäuble accused Athens of “flip-flopping without purpose or understanding”.

Amid the dispute over Greece’s debt crisis, Angela Merkel said she does not see Europe as falling apart. “Yes, these are turbulent days and indeed much is at stake. The world is watching us,” Merkel said before the Bundestag on Wednesday (1 July).

“But the future of Europe is not at stake,” she assured. Europe is “a union based on the rule of law and responsibility. If we were to forget that, the euro would fail and Europe with it”, the Chancellor said.

The other 18 members of the eurozone should not fear a catastrophe, because Europe has become more robust, Merkel explained. A compromise at any price is not a solution, she said, adding that a willingness to compromise is required.

Meanwhile, Merkel indicated that negotiations over a new bailout programme for Greece would not take place before the referendum planned for Sunday (5 July).

“We can await it calmly,” the Chancellor said. “A new [bailout] programme cannot be negotiated before the referendum.” After the previous programme expires, this would not be possible without a mandate from the Bundestag.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, on the other hand, had sharp words for the Greek government, which he warned of destroying “the credibility of the European project”.

“Flip-flopping in this situation is without rhyme or reason,” the hawkish finance minister said, criticising Athens’ approach.

Greece’s leadership must clearly indicate what they want, Schäuble warned in light of the upcoming referendum. It will be “extraordinarily difficult” to find a solution to the country’s problems, he said.

The deciding precondition for this, as well as for strengthening the European monetary union, is a “minimum level of trust”, Schäuble stated. But this does not exist, he emphasised, when a partner neither implements reforms nor adheres to agreements.

Reproaches for the left-led Greek government also came from German Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel. The Vice Chancellor said that the Syriza government is putting its national interests ahead of the union’s and is pursuing policy “at the expense of others”.

One of the European principles is that “everyone is entitled to receive help”. But they must then “ensure that need for support in their own country is not ongoing,” Gabriel pointed out.

Meanwhile, opposition politicians are calling on Merkel to continue to promptly seek an agreement in the debt crisis despite the impending referendum.

“Find a solution at the last minute,” the Left party’s parliamentary group leader Gregor Gysi said, appealing to Chancellor Merkel.

Merkel is carrying “an enormous historical responsibility” these days, he indicated. Now, she must decide whether she wants to go down in history as “the saviour of the European idea” or as “the destroyer”, he said.

Gysi added that governments in France and Austria still want to negotiate with Greece. Merkel is refusing this, he said, because she hopes the government in Athens will crumble.

“A Grexit would be catastrophic,” Gysi continued. This could trigger a chain reaction, he warned, and no one knows exactly what would happen.

If the euro goes under in the end, the leftist politician predicted, Germany will suffer considerably because the weakness of the currencies in other countries would destroy the market for German exports.

The anti-austerity Syriza party marked a stunning victory in a Greek snap election held on 25 January, but did not ensure an absolute majority.

Its leader, Alexis Tsipras, said the “vicious cycle of austerity” was over, triggering mixed reactions in the EU.

Tsipras stated that the Greek public debt is not viable, and asked for its restructuring. The debt amounts to 177% of GDP.

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