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Merkel’s Referendum Sets Greeks on Fire – Eurogroup Knew About it…

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…

News sources among others:  Spiegel, BILD, Associated Press, Proto Thema, To Vima

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  1. Seems like Merkel proposal is sound, they (EU) needs to know if they can trust Greeks as so far they have proven unreliable. Consider the Germans point before knee-jerk condemnation.

  2. So, this confidential phone call on the Greek side was both witnessed by a Bild reporter and recorded? Without Merkel knowing that? Wow.

    The Greek talent for shooting themselves into their own foot always impresses me. That probably was it for you, folks. Expect Merkel to do everything she can behind the scenes to stop the payments and push Greece out of the Euro now. Greek politicians seem to seriously underestimate harmless looking Angela’s mean site. They should have talked to the countless politicians who tried to cross her or otherwise raised her antipathy, only to end up torn up, crippled and forgotten in a bloody trench on the field of political warfare. Like Norbert Röttgen recently, who was brought down from the status of a crown prince of his party to an embarassing “have-been” simply because he didn’t scrupulously enough follow his orders as a party soldier and dared to have ideas of his own.

    If Merkel does this to her “friends”, imagine how she will treat her enemies! Papoulias made a huge mistake and his nation will come to regret that. Like that overly confident Sheriff in a popular movie of the 80s, who should have listened to the warning: “Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe.”

    • keeptalkinggreece

      the BILD reporter claims he overheard Merkel’s call.

      • Apparently. My point is, do you think that’s good statemanship, to conduct confidential phone calls of national importance while, unknowingly to the other side, a reporter is listening?

        Well, maybe that’s totally normal in Greece, who knows. But you still should expect Merkel to return the “favor”, ten eyes for an eye, a complete dentiture for a tooth. As I wrote, she isn’t known for a “forgive and forget” kind of attitude…

        • keeptalkinggreece

          she wouldn’t call without a previous …warning, first of all. She called when Schulz was there and Bild reporter & other reporters as well. Coincidence? I don’t think so… My former chief used to do that… Just pick up the phone and tell somebody something or ‘order’ to do something.

          • Well, there was a “previous warning”! At an Ecofin meeting some time ago, Greek finance minister Sachinidis had been asked to relay the idea to Papoulias. He didn’t, and of course he now denies this ever happened, despite there probably being lots of witnesses to confirm this. But with every additional news report, what probably happened becomes more clear: One Greek politician screwed up, another was taken by surprise and reacted hypersensitively, a third was so excited about knowing something interesting that he ran to the press, and then the whole thing got out of control. That’s so Greek.

  3. This alleged referendum shows what everybody knows: Berlin wants the Greek to bare the responsability for the Grexit. Merkel is afraid that she would be hold responsibile for the dire consequences. As a matter of fact, the crisis and its outcome are out of control,.. the destiny of Europe lies in the hands of Greek people and anonymous markets…

    • Indeed, Merkel doesn’t want to be the one to pull the trigger, she would prefer it if the Greeks would do that themselves. However, the “destiny of Europe” doesn’t depend on the question if a comparatively small state is part of the Eurozone or not. Don’t fall for the propaganda by some interested circles, like Greek politicians, US speculators and British eurohaters, please!