Friday 24 November 2017

Greek finance minister withdraws support for referendum

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou answers questions at his news conference
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Cannes last night

EMBATTLED Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is under further pressure this morning after his finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said that he does not support the plan to hold a referendum on whether the country should stay in the euro.

After returning to Athens from the G20 talks in Cannes last night, Mr Venizelos issued a statement saying he had a "duty to tell the Greek people the full and simple truth.

"Greece's place in the euro is a historical conquest by the Greek people that cannot be placed in question... this cannot be made dependent on a referendum.

"What is important is for the sixth tranche to be disbursed, without any distractions or delay, according to the decisions of Eurogroup of 26 October, which came as a result of 10 hours of hard negotiations."

A second Greek cabinet minister has also come out in opposition to Papandreou's plans for a referendum.

Development Minister Michalis Chryssohoidis said that instead of a referendum, parliament should vote on the deeply unpopular EU debt rescue deal clinched last week.

Mr Papandreou is facing a parliamentary confidence vote tomorrow and if he loses that, as seems increasingly likely, there is talk of creating a government of national unity.

Vasso Papandreou, a senior Greek ruling party lawmaker, has reiterated her call for snap elections and a national unity government.

"The only realistic proposal right now for the country to avoid collapse is to set up a government of national unity immediately.

"Early elections should then be immediately called."

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