An Ultimatum for Greece: Europe Raises Threat Level against Athens

Officially, euro zone governments say they're not talking about a Greek exit from the euro zone. But it's a different story behind closed doors. Finance ministers meeting in Brussels last Monday threatened to evict Greece, SPIEGEL has learned. Meanwhile, Germany denied reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel called for Greece to hold a referendum on the euro.

Time to decide? There are reports that Germany wants Greece to hold a referendum on future membership in the euro zone. Zoom
REUTERS

Time to decide? There are reports that Germany wants Greece to hold a referendum on future membership in the euro zone.

Despite official claims to the contrary, the governments of the euro zone are threatening to kick Greece out of the currency union. At a meeting of euro-zone finance ministers last Monday in Brussels, it was made clear to Greek Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis just how serious the situation had become.

"If we now held a secret vote about Greece staying in the euro zone," Euro Group Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker warned his Greek colleague, "there would be an overwhelming majority against it." Other participants in the meeting also had harsh words for Sachinidis, with particularly strong criticism towards Athens coming from Portugal and Ireland, countries that have also accepted bailouts in the crisis.

The countries say it is unacceptable that they have made serious efforts to fulfil the European Union's guidelines for consolidating their budgets while Greece incessantly breaks its reform agreements. It was the Greeks, they noted, who poured oil on the flames and repeatedly caused the whole euro zone to catch fire with their repeated negligence, other ministers added.

Juncker, who is also Luxembourg's prime minister, added that new elections on June 17 would be Greece's last chance. If the country is unable to form a government that respects the conditions for previously agreed to financial aid to Greece set by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, "then it is over."

A National Referendum on Keeping Euro?

At the meeting, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) also discussed the possibility of a referendum on whether Greece should remain in the currency union that could be held at the same time as the Greek election. If the Greeks voted "yes" on staying in the euro zone in the referendum, they would also accept the agreed to austerity program.

Sources within Merkel's conservatives said Volker Kauder, the party whip in parliament for the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, supports the proposal. Merkel reportedly presented the plan to Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Friday, but the German government has disputed the claim. "The report isn't true," deputy government spokesman Georg Streiter told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

However, on Friday night, the office of Greek interim Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos stated that the chancellor had presented the proposal during a telephone conversation with Papoulias. "It is true," government spokesman Dimitris Tsiodras said.

dsl/SPIEGEL

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