BRUSSELS/BERLIN – France and Germany called for an emergency summit of euro zone leaders to discuss Greeks’ stunning referendum vote on Sunday to reject bailout terms, as calls mounted inBerlin to cut Greece loose from Europe’s common currency.
But Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, leader of Merkel’s centre-left Social Democratic junior coalition partner, said it was hard to conceive of fresh negotiations on lending more billions to Athens after Greeks voted against more austerity.
His comments, saying Greeks had rejected the rules of the euro zone, reflected a mounting public demand in the most powerful EU country, which is also Greece’s biggest creditor, to eject Athens from the 19-nation currency area.
But senior lawmakers in her conservative bloc also spoke firmly: “Now one has to ask the question whetherGreece would not be better off outside the euro zone,” Hans Michelbach, a member of the BavarianChristian Social Union told Reuters. “Unfortunately, Greece has chosen a path of isolation.”
The vote sharpened differences between Greece’s few remaining sympathizers in the euro zone – mostly inItaly and France – and hardline countries led by Germany which are fed up with pouring loans into Greece.
Silence from Brussels
There was a thunderous silence from top EU policymakers in Brussels and Frankfurt who conferred by telephone but avoided public comment on an outcome that was a stunning setback for euro zone governments but delighted anti-EU populists.
“No way,” a euro zone official said when asked whether the Eurogroup ministers would meet on Monday. “(They) would not know what to discuss.”
Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, in a letter to his Dutch Labor Party members before Sunday’s vote, warned: “Although the government in Athens would like people to think otherwise, it (the referendum) is about the question of whether Greece stays in the Eurozone or not.”
The 60-40 margin of defeat for the terms of a cash-for-reform deal which the leftist Greek government rejected a week ago shocked EU officials who had been heartened by opinion polls showing the ‘Yes’ camp gaining ground as bank closures and the rationing of cash withdrawals began to bite.
It was a personal blow for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, one of the architects of the euro, who worked for months to try to broker a debt deal with Tsipras despite misgivings in Berlin.
The head of Germany’s savings bank association said Greece had broken with the rules of the euro zone and should leave the currency bloc. The head of the German exporters’ body said he could not see howGreece could stay in the euro zone now.
Hardline German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, denounced in ‘No’ campaign posters as a blood-sucker, has leaned towards making an example of Greece and pushing it towards the exit, sources familiar with his thinking say.
“It is ‘No’ vote of freedom, of rebellion against European ‘diktats’ of those who want to impose the single currency at any price, through the most inhuman and counter-productive austerity,” she said in a statement.
Eurosceptics in the Netherlands and Italy joined the chorus of glee at the EU’s discomfiture. In Spain, leader of the new far-left Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, who is close to Tsipras, tweeted: “Today in Greece, democracy has won.”