Tsipras announces referendum on lenders’ proposals

In a surprise move, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced early on Saturday that his government intends to hold a referendum on whether Greece should accept the proposals put forward by lenders.

Tsipras made it clear that he is against accepting the terms offered by creditors but said that he would accept the outcome of any vote.

The prime minister said he would go to Parliament on Saturday to get approval from MPs to hold the referendum on Sunday, July 5.

“After five months of tough negotiations, our partners unfortunately resorted to a proposal-ultimatum to the Greek people,” Tsipras said. “I call on the Greek people to rule on the blackmailing ultimatum asking us to accept a strict and humiliating austerity without end and without prospect.”

The surprise development throws into turmoil planned talks Saturday among euro-area finance ministers on their latest proposal, which would unlock 15.5 billion euros and extend Greece’s program through November, in return for a commitment to pension cuts and higher taxes that Tsipras opposes.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke with European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi on Saturday, who showed “understanding and sensitivity” over a decision to hold a referendum on July 5, the government spokesman said.

Greek banks rely on emergency infusions from the European Central Bank to stay afloat and the liquidity lifeline has been reviewed frequently in recent weeks as Greek savers pulled out money on fears of capital controls.

“We are sure – which was proven also during the phone call – that Mr. Draghi has the best of intentions on the decision of the Greek government to hold a referendum,” Gabriel Sakellaridis told Greek television.

Greeece’s Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis and Deputy Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos will meet Saturday with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, a government statement said. Tsipras spoke with Draghi on the phone before announcing his decision to hold a referendum to explain the government’s view, Tsakalotos said in a phone interview.

[Kathimerini & Agencies]