With her ‘alleged’ (?) euro-referendum proposal German Chancellor Angela Merkel achieved the impossible: to unite all Greek Parties against her! The pro-bailout and the contra-bailout parties alike. Despite denials from the German side and confirmations from the Greek side, there is still confusion on Saturday morning as to whether Angela Merkel suggested to Greek President Karolos Papoulias that Greeks should decide whether they want to remain in the euro during a referendum to be held alongside with the June-17 elections.
The German side denies such a proposal, the Greek Presidency insists. According to ANT1 TV -news Saturday 1 pm -, sources of the Greek presidency said that the conversation has been recorded.
Furthermore German media report that even during the Eurogroup meeting on May 14th, such a proposal was on the table.
The Statement & the German Reaction
On Friday evening the office of the Greek caretaker Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos issued a statement about the telephone conversation between Angela Merkel and Karolos Papoulias. It read among others:
“Mrs. Merkel reiterated the EU support to Greece’s efforts to overcome the crisis. She also mentioned that the EU intends to consider strengthening policies for growth and to combat unemployment in Europe. The issue of development is also a key issue to be addressed by the Special EU Summit on 23 May in Brussels.
“She also conveyed to the President of the Republic thoughts about a referendum alongside elections, a referendum with the question whether Greek citizens wish to stay in the eurozone.
It is obvious that the issue is outside the responsibilities of the caretaker government.” (see also KTG)
Upon the news coming from Greece, German government spokesman Georg Streiter said “These reports do not apply.”
However, the Greek side insisted that Merkel made this proposal and sources from the Presidency said “it is true” and that all political parties have been informed on this.
Later another German government spokeswoman this time dismissed anew the Greek “claims” saying, ” reports on the alleged referendum proposal were inaccurate.” And added that the conversation between Merkel and Greek president Karolos Papoulias was confidential.
Lost in Translation?
Did Merkel speak directly to Papoulias who is a fluent German speaker? Some Greek media report that the two spoke via translators. And that Merkel’s words were most probably lost in Greek translation. How long did the two speak with each other?
“Three minutes” claims one Greek newspaper, “Twenty minutes” claim another.
Nevertheless as the President made no official statement about the telephone conversation during the day with the effect that rumors started to spread among political parties staff and journalists offices. According to rumors, Merkel had apparently spoken from “functioning governement” or “stable government” after the elections, up to “MoU re-negotiation”, “make MoU invalid”, “tough stance” and “referendum”.
A political leader alledgedly called the office of the prime minister and advised that a clarifying press release should made.
Strong reactions by Greek parties
As expected Merkel’s statement set Greece’s political parties on fire and strong reactions came equally from left and right, making the impossible possible: A common anti-referendum and anti-Merkel stance!
Nea Dimocratia (Samaras): “Merkel’s proposal is at least unfortunate. Greeks are not in need of a referendum.”
SYRIZA (Tsipras): “Merkel speaks as if Greece was her protectorate. Provocative intervention.”
PASOK (Venizelos): “A referendum is out of question. A referendum is up to Greek government to decide and not to EU or member states.”
KKE (Papariga): “Raw blackmail against Greek people.”
Democratic Left (Kouvelis): “Merkel’s action unacceptable. There is attempt to terrorize Greek citizens.”
Independent Greeks (Kammenos): “She should hold a referendum in her won country, whether she wants to stay in euro or not.”
Eurogroup: BILD, Sueddeutsche Zeitung Know More…
According to German tabloid BILD correspondent from Athens indirectly confirms Merkel’s referendum proposal and even claims that Merkel’s suggestion was first tabled as “idea” at the Eurogroup Finance Ministers Summit on May 14, 2012.
Also German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote today, about the referendum idea at the Eurogroup meeting: “The 16 Eurogroup finance ministers asked their Greek college to discuss in Athens about the referendum possibility.”
If this is true, then Greek (ex) FinMin Philippos Sachinidis must know more about it… Nevertheless Sachinidis had no time to discuss anything as he resigned from his post a day later for the shake of a Greek interim government.
UPDATE: Greek officials who attended the Eurogroup meeting dismissed claims that the euro-referendum was discussed at the May 14/meeting or that Sachinidis was authorised by the 16 FinMin to discuss the issue in Athens. Upon his arrival, Sachinidis briefed then PM Papademos, not any briefing on referendum (source: Mega TV, 2-o’-clock
Unconfirmed Greek reports claim that also the president of European Parliament Martin Schulz spoke of a euro referendum during a meeting with Evangelos Venizelos (PASOK) on Friday in Athens.
PS Can you imagine there is a referendum together with the elections and the results are: 80% YES to Euro – anti-bailout government – Alexis Tsipras as Prime Minister? I think Merkel would resign upon the exit polls reports…