Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum on whether Greece should accept the demands of the country’s creditors, the most dramatic move yet in a debt crisis that started five years ago.
Following is a translation of Tsipras’ address as provided by his press office.
For the last six months, the Greek government has been waging a battle under conditions of unprecedented economic asphyxiation, in order to implement your mandate, that of January 25th.
The mandate to negotiate with our partners to bring about an end austerity, and for prosperity and social justice to return to our country once more.
For a sustainable agreement that will respect democracy, as well as European rules, and which will lead to a definitive exit from the crisis.
During the negotiations, we were repeatedly asked to implement memoranda policies agreed to by the previous governments, despite the fact that the memoranda were unequivocally condemned by the Greek people in the recent elections.
We never considered giving in—not even for a moment. Of betraying your trust.
Following five months of tough negotiations, our partners submitted a proposal-ultimatum at the Eurogroup meeting, taking aim at Greek democracy and the Greek people.
An ultimatum that contravenes Europe’s founding principles and values. The values of our common European project.
The Greek government was asked to accept a proposal that will add new unbearable weight to the shoulders of the Greek people, and that will undermine the recovery of the Greek economy and society–not only by fueling uncertainty, but also by further exacerbating social inequalities.
The institutions’ proposal includes measures that will further deregulate the labor market, pension cuts, and further reductions in public sector wages–as well as an increase in VAT on food, restaurants and tourism, while eliminating the tax breaks of the Greek islands.
These proposals -– which directly violate the European social acquis and the fundamental rights to work, equality and dignity — prove that certain partners and members of the institutions are not interested in reaching a viable and beneficial agreement for all parties, but rather the humiliation of the Greek people.
These proposals mainly illustrate the IMF’s insistence on harsh and punitive austerity measures. Now is the time for the leading European powers to rise to the occasion and take initiative to definitively end the Greek debt crisis, a crisis affecting other European countries as well, by threatening the very future of European integration.
We are facing a historic responsibility to not let the struggles and sacrifices of the Greek people be in vain, and to strengthen democracy and our national sovereignty—and this responsibility weighs upon us.
Our responsibility for our country’s future. This responsibility obliges us to respond to the ultimatum based on the sovereign will of the Greek people.
Earlier this evening, the Cabinet was convened and I proposed holding a referendum, so that the Greek people can decide.
My proposal was unanimously accepted.
Tomorrow, the Parliament will hold an extraordinary meeting to ratify the Cabinet’s proposal for a referendum to take place next Sunday, on July 5th. The question on the ballot will be whether the institutions’ proposal should be accepted or rejected.
I have already informed the French President, the German Chancellor, and the ECB’s president of my decision, while tomorrow I will ask for a short extension of the program -in writing- from the leaders of the EU and the institutions, so that the Greek people can decide free of pressure and blackmail, as stipulated by our country’s Constitution and Europe’s democratic tradition.
I call on you to decide –- with sovereignty and dignity as Greek history demands — whether we should accept the extortionate ultimatum that calls for strict and humiliating austerity without end, and without the prospect of ever standing on our own two feet, socially and financially.
We should respond to authoritarianism and harsh austerity with democracy–calmly and decisively.
Greece, the birthplace of democracy, should send a resounding democratic message to the European and global community.
And I personally commit that I will respect the outcome of your democratic choice, whatever it may be.
I am absolutely confident that your choice will honor our country’s history and will send a message of dignity worldwide. In these critical times, we all have to remember that Europe is the common home of all of its peoples.
That in Europe there are no owners and guests. Greece is, and will remain, an integral part of Europe, and Europe an integral part of Greece.
But a Europe without democracy will be a Europe without an identity and without a compass. I call on all of you to act with national unity and composure, and to make a worthy decision.
For us, for our future generations, for Greek history. For our country’s sovereignty and dignity.