As EU officials have agreed to pause the Greek debt talks, PM Alexis Tsipras underlined his commitment to the referendum saying that any statements about expelling Greece from the Eurozone should Sunday’s referendum result in a “No” vote are a bluff.
The group of Eurozone finance ministers has agreed that the debt talks will be paused until after Greece holds a popular referendum on whether or not Athens should agree to the international creditors’ conditions.
“There will be no further talks in the coming days, nor at Eurogroup level, nor between the Greek authorities and the institutions on proposals or financial arrangements. We will simply wait now the outcome of the referendum on Sunday and take into account the outcome of the referendum,” Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the group, Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Wednesday.
A defiant Tsipras addressed his fellow Greeks in a live televised speech on Wednesday. He said that his country needs new reforms, different from the ones international lenders are insisting on.
“The reforms that the country really needs are different from those that we were being pressed into for so many years, and that led practically to a humanitarian catastrophe,” Tsipras said. “We need reforms that will give us hope and security.”
The Greek government has called a snap referendum on Sunday, asking people the question whether they think Athens should agree to the new conditions the international lenders have set.
“A ‘No’ answer in the referendum would be an important step to getting a better deal – it does not mean a break-up with Europe,” Tsipras said. “I fully understand the difficulties, and I will do everything in my power so that they are temporary.”
“Those who say the government has a plan to exit Europe are lying,” he added.
“The referendum has nothing to do with Greece staying in the Eurozone, no one can doubt that,” Tsipras said, adding that any threats to expel Greece from the currency union are a bluff.
Should Greece receive a positive answer from the lenders to the suggestions it made about a new deal, the Greek government will “react immediately,” the prime minister said.
Tsipras said his government was facing the consequences of a fight for decent welfare: “The predominance of extreme views in Europe has led to the closure of Greek banks, to scare the average Greek citizen. To protect the right of our pensioners for a decent pension, we have been fighting for five months, and now, we are facing retribution for it.”
In the wrap-up of his address, Tsipras assured Greeks that the current hardships will not last forever. “The salaries will not be lost, the deposits of those who have chosen to keep their capital in the country will not disappear,” he said.
peaking in the German parliament on Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that her thoughts were with the Greek people, as they are in a desperate state at the moment.
Merkel, the strongest supporter of the austerity policy in the EU, assured that the “door for negotiation with the Greek government was always open and it remains open.”
She said that Europe Union is not at stake as long as it does not “forget who we are and what makes us strong: a union based on the rule of law and responsibility.” She also attacked the current Greek government, blaming it for the crisis.
Echoing her statement, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in a speech in the lower house of parliament that the Syriza government “has done nothing since it came into office.”
“You can’t in all honesty expect us to talk with them in a situation like this,” he added.
German MP of The Left Party, Gregor Gysi, slammed Merkel saying that the Chancellor has been trying to silence the critics of the austerity policy.
“The austerity backed by Germany and the Troika has failed. Soup kitchens and more soup kitchens… Greece is not the only one to have broken the EU’s budget rules, why is it being vilified. You want to remove the leftist government in Greece, that’s what it is about,” he said.
Mark Weisbrot of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, told RT that the EU authorities have been trying to intimidate Greece, however their message failed the cause.
“It seems that what the EU authorities were doing to shut down the banking system was trying to intimidate the people into voting ‘Yes’ and excepting the deal and going against the government,” he said.
He believes that the EU creditors have been “bluffing all along” in terms of pushing Athens out of the Eurozone in the near future.