Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday that there were growing calls for Greece to exit the eurozone and stressed that Athens must convince its peers that it belongs in the single currency zone.
"There are lots of people in the eurozone who no longer want us in. We have to convince them that we can stay in the euro zone, that we can regain the ground we have lost,» Venizelos told Papoulias.
The minister added that the country was ?on the razor?s edge? and that attempts to finalize the details of the new debt program ?were proving to be very difficult as there as there are some people in Greece and abroad are playing with fire,» the minister continued, without elaborating. «Some have matches, others have torches,» he added.
He referred to a ?tragic dilemma.» ?Unfortunately the dilemma is sacrifices or economic disaster which would drag down society and probably our institutions and the level of our democracy.?
According to sources, Venizelos was invited by the president who asked to be briefed following the inability of the government to offer eurozone officials the guarantees they had demanded in time for a Eurogroup summit which had been scheduled for Wednesday. Instead eurozone finance ministers are to hold a teleconference call to discuss «outstanding issues."
The eurozone officials had demanded details on how Athens plans to cover a 325-million-euro savings shortfall and political guarantees from party leaders.
A proposal by the government to cover the shortfall with cuts to defense spending, public investment funds and the health sector was reportedly not accepted by creditor nations. Some reports indicated last night that supplemental and main pensions might be cut to make up some of the shortfall. Venizelos did not specify in his comments to Papoulias that pension cuts were on the cards but his references to the need for sacrifices indicated that authorities were likey to impose further austerity measures.
As for the political guarantees demanded, Socialist PASOK leader and former premier George Papandreou reportedly sent his letter late on Tuesday while the head of conservative New Democracy was expected to send his on Wednesday.