World leaders convening in the US presidential retreat in Maryland for the G8 summit of the world’s leading industrialized nations expressed conviction over the weekend that action must be taken to keep Greece in the eurozone and curb the financial turmoil shaking global markets as European officials insisted Athens must respect the terms of a debt deal signed with its foreign creditors to safeguard crucial rescue loans.
“We reaffirm our interest in Greece remaining in the eurozone while respecting its commitments,” the G8 leaders said in a joint statement, but they did not propose any specific measures for easing the crisis.
The written statement followed expressions of support by individual leaders, notably French President Francois Hollande. Speaking after talks with US President Barack Obama on Saturday, Hollande said, “We share the same views, the fact that Greece must stay in the eurozone and that all of us must do what we can to that effect.”
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, whose stance against Greece has hardened in recent months, took a firmer line. In an interview with Kathimerini published Sunday, he said the idea of Greece continuing to receive aid without honoring its commitments was “a pipe dream.”
His comments echoed those to Germany’s tabloid Bild, that “European solidarity isn’t a one-way street.” Greece’s political leaders “are obliged to tell voters that participation in the eurozone is linked to many advantages but also many preconditions,” the German minister told Kathimerini. He said Greeks would not just be voting for a party next month but “answering existential questions,” an apparent reference to debate about Greece’s future in the eurozone.
This issue came sharply into focus late Friday when Greek authorities revealed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had raised the idea of Greece holding a referendum on euro membership in parallel to elections.
Over the weekend, the chancellor’s office continued to deny that Merkel had made such a proposal during her telephone call to President Karolos Papoulias on Friday night. German news magazine Der Spiegel confirmed that the chancellor had broached the idea however, adding that it was floated by Schaeuble at the Ecofin summit last Monday. The intervention prompted angry responses from Greek political leaders.