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[Eurasia] GREECE - Referendum will not be on euro, ministers say

Released on 2012-02-29 18:00 GMT

Email-ID 1017743
Date 2011-11-02 23:48:48
This seems like pretty empty rhetoric as I don't think anyone was ever
saying that the referendum would be on whether to stay in the eurozone or
not - but rather that the consequences of the public rejecting the terms
of the bailout would be expulsion from the euro.

Referendum will not be on euro, ministers say
2 Nov 2011

Government officials have given assurances that the question that will
appear on ballot papers in the planned referendum will be on the loan
contract and the October 27 decision of the eurozone summit of the leaders
and not on Greece's membership of the eurozone.

"Nobody doubts the European prospect of the country," deputy government
spokesman Angelos Tolkas told the main evening news bulletin on private
Mega TV. "This government has taken all the measures for Greece to remain
strong in the euro."

The comments came as Prime Minister George Papandreou was meeting with G20
leaders on November 2.

Earlier French and German officials said that a Greek referendum on the
latest EU bailout deal must happen as soon as possible - and preferably
before mid-December - to keep to a minimum the period of economic and
political uncertainty.

Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, urged Greece to stick to
the aid plan agreed with the eurozone and IMF on October 26 and to avoid
the dangerous instability posed by the prospect of a referendum.

"It would be helpful if clarity is achieved as soon as possible on which
path Greece wants to take," Schaeuble told the Hamburger Abendblatt

Meanwhile, French European Affairs Minister Jean Leonetti said that any
referendum should be held "as soon as possible". Asked if it would better
for the poll to be completed by mid-December, he said: "It would be
important that things are decided that way."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have
summoned Papandreou to crisis talks in Cannes, France, at a summit of G20
world economies. Preliminary indications are that Merkel, Sarkozy and
other G20 leaders will meet at 6.30pm local time, and that a smaller
meeting will follow with Papandreou at 9pm. Ta Nea daily is also reporting
that Papandreou will hold a separate meeting with US President Barack

In a rare televised address on the steps of the Elysee palace in Paris on
November 1, Sarkozy did not hide his frustration with Papandreoua**s
decision to call a referendum, while Merkela**s reaction was more

"This announcement took the whole of Europe by surprise," Sarkozy said.
"The plan ... is the only way to solve Greece's debt problem."

Advance warning

German European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in a newspaper
interview on November 2 that Papandreou's actions had "made the situation
considerably worse for countries which don't have the highest credit
rating, and the danger of further setbacks is rising".

He told the daily Die Welt that the Greek leader should have given
European leaders advance warning of his referendum plans at their twin
summits last week. The mass-circulation Bild daily said "even the
chancellor was taken by surprise".

"My worry is that we will have an unstable situation until the referendum.
The Greeks have many good grounds to vote for the package. The steps we
decided on are a good opportunity for their country. But there's a lot of
frustration and resignation in Greece. If the Greeks actually vote no, the
consequences are unforeseeable," said Oettinger, the EU energy

However, government spokesman Elias Mossialos denied on November 2 that EU
leaders were unaware of Papandreoua**s plans to call a referendum.

"Prime Minister George Papandreou had informed our European partners of
his intentions, but he had not informed them on the exact date of their
announcement,a** he told private radio station Vima. a**It lies with the
Greek prime minister when and in what way a political initiative is
announced. It's a part of our national sovereignty and our political


Papandreou won the backing of his cabinet in the early hours of November 2
to hold a referendum on latest Brussels bailout deal.

The cabinet unanimously backed a proposal after a marathon seven-hour
meeting that lasted until 3am on Wednesday morning, according to an
official announcement issued after the meeting.

Ministers also expressed "full support" for the vote of confidence in the
government called by Papandreou, debate on which begins Wednesday
afternoon and ends with a roll-call vote at midnight Friday.

Some of his party lawmakers called for him to quit, accusing him of
endangering Greek euro membership with his shock decision to call a
popular vote, a move that pummelled the euro and global stocks. But the
cabinet support at least gives him a stay of execution before a confidence
vote in parliament on November 4.

"The referendum will be a clear mandate and a clear message in and outside
Greece on our European course and participation in the euro," Papandreou
told a cabinet meeting that lasted seven hours, a statement from his
office said. "No one will be able to doubt Greece's course within the

Speaking after the cabinet meeting, government spokesman Mossialos said
that the technical procedures, the exact date of the referendum and the
wording of the question to be put to the citizens will be worked out by a
governmental committee and submitted to the cabinet "in a relatively short
time" so that the referendum may be held "by the end of the year, if

Speaking to public broadcaster Net, Interior Minister Haris Kastanidis
said that the referendum date could be moved forward from January if all
the details of the loan agreement has been completed.

"There is a possibility that the referendum will take place earlier, in
December," he said.

Kastanidis also lashed out at the banking sector, as well as the
opposition parties, for their stance. He charged that very few banks "have
put their hand in their pocket to confront the crisis" and that they are
"confronting the crisis with state support".

Commenting on Friday's confidence vote, the interior minister also
revealed that the government will carry on even if it hangs on by the skin
of its teeth, with a single vote from an independent MP.

Speaking to his parliamentary group at noon on November 2, main opposition
New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras warned that the Pasok government
was "desperate and dangerous" and pledged that an ND government would do
everything necessary to attain Greece's fiscal targets.

Samaras said this could only be done with a different policy that would
give hope and prospects to the country. (Athens News, Reuters, AMNA)

Kristen A. Cooper
Eurasia Analyst
T: (512) 744-4093 M: (512) 619-9414