Greece was forced to deny on Friday that it has any intention of leaving the eurozone or that it was discussing a potential exit with its European partners after a report in Germany suggested finance ministers were meeting in Luxembourg to talk about Athens reverting to the drachma.
Spiegel Online reported that Greece had raised the prospect of an exit with other countries. Quoting ?German government sources knowledgeable of the situation in Athens,? the Internet version of the German weekly news magazine said eurozone finance ministers were meeting on Friday evening to discuss Greece?s situation, and that a possible restructuring of its debt as well as the issue of leaving the 17-member bloc would be on the agenda of the meeting.
?The report about Greece leaving the eurozone is untrue,? Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis told Reuters minutes after the Spiegel report appeared on the Internet. ?Such reports undermine Greece and the euro and serve market speculation games.?
A few minutes later, the Finance Ministry issued a formal rejection of the claims. ?An article published today concerning the possible exit of Greece from the eurozone is not only completely untrue but also written with incomprehensible flippancy despite repeated denials by the Greek government as well as other EU member states.?
The euro fell sharply on the foreign exchange markets in late trading and Athens said that the claims made by Spiegel Online were damaging for Greece and the single currency. ?Such articles are not only provocative but also highly irresponsible as they undermine Greece?s efforts and those of the eurozone and serve only the interests of speculators,? said the Finance Ministry.
Greece?s assertion that no secret meeting was taking place in Luxembourg was backed up by other eurozone members. ?I totally deny that there is a meeting, these reports are totally wrong,? Guy Schuller, a spokesman for Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the group of eurozone finance ministers, told Reuters.
A spokesman for the Austrian Finance Ministry said a breakup of the bloc would be ?absolutely unthinkable.? ?Austria is a member of the eurozone, we know of no such meeting and haven?t been invited, so I conclude that there is no such meeting because I do not believe there can be a eurozone meeting without Austria,? spokesman Thomas Waiglein said.
However, a source told Reuters that some EU ministers were meeting in Luxembourg on Friday to review issues such as Portugal, Greece and European Central Bank leadership, «but nothing more».
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his deputy Joerg Asmussen were at the meeting, according to Reuters.
Amadeu Altafaj Tardio, spokesman for the EU's monetary affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, said he did not know anything about the emergency finance ministers meeting in Luxembourg, reportedly called by the European Commission, the EU's executive.
However, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a prearranged meeting was taking place but did not specify where and stressed it had nothing to do with Greece leaving the euro.
?Greece exiting the Eurozone is not on the agenda of that meeting, and it has never been,? Steffen Seibert said.