Leaders Pessimistic After Greeks Reject Austerity

European leaders are pessimistic a deal can still be done now that the Greeks have voted “no”.

Polish prime minister Ewa Kopacz and German chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference in Berlin, October 14, 2014
Polish prime minister Ewa Kopacz and German chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference in Berlin, October 14, 2014 (Bundesregierung)

European leaders were pessimistic on Sunday after Greeks overwhelmingly rejected their latest offer to extend the country’s bailout in a referendum.

Poland’s prime minister, Ewa Kopacz, was the first to clearly say she saw no other option but for Greece to leave the euro. “Greeks today are the political victims of a bunch of populists,” she said.

Germany’s Angela Merkel, who leads the bloc’s largest and most powerful member, did not immediately comment. But two of her deputies did.

Sigmar Gabriel, the economy minister and leader of the junior Social Democrats in the ruling coalition, told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper that the “no” vote on Sunday meant “negotiations about a program worth billions are barely conceivable” anymore.

Manfred Weber, the German who leads the conservative group in the European Parliament, told ARD television the Greek “no” vote was a “bad signal for Europe.”

He expressed doubts that a deal could be done with the Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who recently called his nation’s creditors terrorists.

The Netherlands’ Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the meetings of eurozone finance ministers, merely described the outcome of the referendum as “regrettable” on Sunday.

But earlier in the week, he told the Dutch parliament that in case of a “no” vote, “There is not only no basis for a new program; there is also no basis for Greece in the eurozone.”

Slovakia’s finance minister, Peter Kažimír, warned that a Greek exit from the euro had become a “realistic scenario” and he implored other European countries, “Rejection of reforms by Greece cannot mean that they will get the money easier.”

61 percent of Greeks followed their government’s advice to vote “no” in a referendum that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hailed as an “historic and brave” decision.

In an address televised after the results were announced, the far-left leader denied the “no” vote he had recommended was a vote against the euro. “Our message is not a message of breaking with Europe but for negotiations for a viable agreement,” Tsipras said.

But the prime minister threw away the chance of an agreement last weekend by unexpectedly calling the referendum in the first place — only days before Greece’s €240 billion bailout program expired.

With the bailout done and no proposal from the creditors on the table anymore, the referendum turned into a proxy of Greece’s willingness to continue economic reforms in return for financial support from other European countries or reject austerity at the price of its eurozone membership.

European officials urged a “yes” vote with Gabriel saying, “It must be crystal clear what is being decided. It is, at the core, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to remaining in the eurozone.”

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, French president François Hollande and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzo, among others, said much the same thing.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, announced late on Sunday that leaders would convene in Brussels on Tuesday for an emergency summit to discuss the outcome of the Greek referendum.

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