European leaders are urging Greek voters to back the austerity package in Sunday’s referendum after Athens ordered banks to shut for a week and imposed capital controls after its citizens emptied ATMs.
But in a narrow ray of hope, creditors left the door open to Greece for a last-ditch debt deal, in order to try to avert a potentially calamitous default tonight that could spark a Greek eurozone exit and raise serious questions about the future of the EU.
EU Commissioner of Economic Affairs Pierre Moscovici said that Athens was “centimetres” away from a deal when discussions broke down at the weekend.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker last night told Greek voters they would be rejecting the EU if they opposed creditors’ reform proposals.
“A ‘No’ would mean, regardless of the question posed, that Greece had said no to Europe,” Mr Juncker said in Brussels.
He made clear his frustration with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ behavior during negotiations in a bid to secure a reform package, which culminated with his call for a referendum on Friday night.
“After all the efforts I deployed from the commission, I feel betrayed because these efforts were insufficiently taken into account,” Mr Juncker said.
He urged Greek voters to support creditors’ reform proposals, saying it was “not a stupid austerity package”.
“I will ask the Greek people to vote ‘Yes’. One should not commit suicide because one is afraid of death.
“It’s time for Greece’s political leaders to show their responsibility to tell their people what’s really at stake.”
Turning around the Greek economy remained a huge challenge. “It will not be easy, but it’s necessary,” he said.
“Others have done it, just ask the Irish, Portuguese, Spanish and Latvians.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed Europe needs the ability to compromise, warning if the “euro fails, Europe fails”, but insisted the bloc must also stick to its principles.
Ms Merkel said that if the “capability to find compromises is lost, then Europe is lost”.
However she stressed that Europe’s principles “need to be fought for”, otherwise it could see its image diminished.
“Perhaps we could give them up in the short term, maybe we could say ‘let’s just give in for once’,” she said.
“But I say: in the medium and long term, this would damage us. It would damage us in that we would cease to be relevant in the world, that our unity disappears.
“That’s why we need to promote again and again the ability to compromise and the principles in Europe.”
Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi added his weight to those warning that Greece is voting on its eurozone membership on Sunday. “The point is: Greek referendum won’t be a derby EU Commission vs Tsipras, but euro vs dracma. This is the choice,” he Tweeted.
The point is: greek referendum won’t be a derby EU Commission vs Tsipras, but euro vs dracma. This is the choice.
— Matteo Renzi (@matteorenzi) June 29, 2015
French President Francois Hollande delivered a statement after holding a council meeting on Greece at the Elysee Palace in Paris. He told reporters “It is democracy, it is the right of the Greek people to decide what they want for their future. What is at stake is whether or not Greeks want to stay in the eurozone (or) take the risk of leaving.”