Ref­er­en­dum idea aired by gov’t

PM said to be de­bat­ing whether to ask vot­ers if more aus­ter­ity mea­sures should be adopted

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

The con­fu­sion sur­round­ing Greece’s eco­nomic prospects grew yes­ter­day as the gov­ern­ment toyed with the idea of hold­ing a ref­er­en­dum on whether it should en­ter into a new loan agree­ment with its cred­i­tors, and the coun­try’s Euro­pean com­mis­sioner sug­gested that dis­cus­sions about an exit from the euro had al­ready be­gun.

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou met Pres­i­dent Karo­los Papou­lias yes­ter­day amid ru­mors that he was mulling the idea of a ref­er­en­dum to de­cide whether his gov­ern­ment should pro­ceed with pri­va­ti­za­tions and fur­ther aus­ter­ity mea­sures in re­turn for more loans from the Euro­pean Union and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund.

In his meet­ing with Papou­lias, Pa­pan­dreou in­di­cated that de­spite not find­ing dur­ing talks on Tues­day any com­mon ground with op­po­si­tion lead­ers on what poli­cies the gov­ern­ment should fol­low, there was at least agree­ment on what the aims of its poli­cies should be.

“Dur­ing my meet­ings, I es­tab­lished that there is a com­mon tar­get, which is to re­duce the debt and deficit,” said Pa­pan­dreou. He added that “de­ci­sions need to be taken with the widest pos­si­ble co­or­di­na­tion and con­sen­sus of our party, other par­ties and, of course, the Greek peo­ple.”

On Tues­day evening, of­fi­cials close to Pa­pan­dreou sug­gested the gov­ern­ment might opt to hold a ref­er­en­dum. How­ever, sev­eral hours later, gov­ern­ment spokesman Gior­gos Pe­talo­tis said there had been no dis­cus­sion about a ref­er­en­dum but that the idea had not been ruled out. “There is no de­ci­sion or thought about car­ry­ing out a ref­er­en­dum,” he told jour­nal­ists be­fore adding, “The prime min­is­ter has said that ref­er­en­dums could be car­ried out when there is a need for wider con­sen­sus.”

Mean­while, EU Com­mis­sioner for Mar­itime Af­fairs and Fish­eries Maria Da­manaki cre­ated fur­ther un­ease by sug­gest­ing that Greece’s exit from the euro was a pos­si­bil­ity.

“The great­est achieve­ment of post­war Greece – the euro and the coun­try’s Euro­pean course – are in dan­ger,” she said in a state­ment. “The sce­nario of Greece dis­tanc­ing it­self from the euro is on the ta­ble. We ei­ther agree with our cred­i­tors on a pro­gram of tough sac­ri­fices that brings re­sults, and as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for our past, or we re­turn to the drachma.”

A spokesman for Eco­nomic and Mon­e­tary Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Olli Rehn de­nied there had been any talks about Greece leav­ing the euro.

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