Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Merkel 'suggested Greece euro vote'

Germany's chancellor has apparently waded into Greece's choppy political waters, with Athens saying Angela Merkel suggested that the country should hold a referendum on the euro together with next month's national elections.

But government spokesman Dimitris Tsiodras ruled out the idea, which he said Mrs Merkel floated during a phone call with Greek president Karolos Papoulias earlier in the day.

"(Merkel) also conveyed to the president thoughts on holding a referendum along with the elections, with the question of to what extent Greek citizens wish to remain in the eurozone," Mr Tsiodras said in a statement. "However, it is obvious that the issue lies outside the jurisdiction of the caretaker government," he added.

Greece is set to hold elections on June 17 to end a political deadlock after a previous vote on May 6 produced a hung parliament. The rise of parties opposed to Greece's austerity commitments - made to secure vital international rescue loans - has raised fears that if anti-bailout parties prevail, the country could be forced to leave the euro.

Berlin first refused to comment and then denied that Mrs Merkel had floated the idea during a phone conversation with Mr Papoulias.

The alleged proposal ruffled feathers across Greece's deeply fragmented political spectrum, with parties saying it was an unwarranted intervention in Greek affairs.

A German government spokeswoman said reports on the alleged referendum proposal "are inaccurate". She said the conversation between Mrs Merkel and Mr Papoulias - a fluent German speaker - was confidential.

Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, whose pro-bailout New Democracy party won a Pyrrhic victory in the May 6 vote, said Mrs Merkel's reported suggestion was "at the very least unfortunate".

"Greece doesn't need a referendum to prove its choice in favour of the euro, a choice that it's defending with bloody sacrifices," he said. "But the Greek people deserve the respect of their European partners."

Radical Left Coalition leader Alexis Tsipras - who led his anti-bailout party to a surprise second place in the last election - said Mrs Merkel was treating Greece "as a protectorate".

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph