A “No” vote in the Greek referendum on bailout terms would not provide Greece with an easy way out of its economic crisis, the head of the grouping of eurozone finance ministers has said.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s comments came after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Greeks a “No” vote would lead to a “better agreement”.
But Mr Dijsselbloem insisted that suggestion was “simply wrong”.
Long queues of pensioners have formed outside Greek banks for a second day.
Mr Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch finance minister, told a parliamentary committee in the Netherlands that a rejection of the current bailout terms by Greek voters in Sunday’s hastily arranged referendum would make it hard for the two sides to bridge “fundamental differences”.
It would place both Greece and Europe in a “very difficult position”, he said.
“The Greek government is rejecting everything with the suggestion that if you vote ‘No’ you will get a better or less tough, or more friendly package. That suggestion is simply wrong,” he added.
Greece’s banks stayed shut this week after emergency funding from the European Central Bank (ECB) was frozen, though some branches have reopened to allow pensioners – many of whom do not use bank cards – a one-off weekly withdrawal of up to €120.
Withdrawals from cash machines are capped at just €60 (£43; $66) a day.
Local media are reporting growing pressure on the economy, with businesses halting production because they are unable to pay suppliers, and some shops considering giving unpaid leave to staff.
Greece’s left-wing Syriza government, elected on an anti-austerity platform, has been in deadlock with its creditors for months over the terms of a third bailout.
Last weekend, it took the unilateral decision to hold a vote on those terms.
On Tuesday, the previous eurozone bailout expired, depriving Greece of access to billions of euros in funds, and Athens missed a €1.5bn (£1.1bn; $1.7bn) repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
EU leaders have warned that a “No” vote on Sunday may see Greece leave the eurozone – though Mr Tsipras says he does not want this to happen.
Divisions in Greece have sharpened ahead of the vote. A poll cited by euro2day.gr said 47% of people were leaning toward a “Yes” vote, with the “No” camp at 43%. A previous poll suggested the “No” camp had a shrinking lead.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he would resign if the “Yes” campaign won.
He also said he would not sign any deal that did not include a restructuring of Greece’s debt. “I prefer to cut my arm off,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg.
On Wednesday Mr Tsipras put new proposals to eurozone partners, accepting most of what was on the table before talks with creditors collapsed last week, but with conditions.
His latest offer was tied explicitly to agreement on a request for a third bailout from the eurozone’s bailout fund lasting two years and amounting to €29.1bn.
But he later made a defiant speech on national TV confirming Sunday’s vote would go ahead and urging a “No” vote to strengthen Greece’s hand in negotiations.
The European Commission – one of the “troika” of creditors along with the IMF and the European Central Bank – wants Athens to raise taxes and cut welfare spending to meet its debt obligations.
Lenders’ proposals – key sticking points
- VAT (sales tax): Alexis Tsipras accepts a new three-tier system, but wants to keep 30% discount on the Greek islands’ VAT rates. Lenders want the islands’ discounts scrapped
- Pensions: Ekas top-up grant for some 200,000 poorer pensioners will be phased out by 2020 – as demanded by lenders. But Mr Tsipras says no to immediate Ekas cut for the wealthiest 20% of Ekas recipients
- Defence: Mr Tsipras says reduce ceiling for military spending by €200m in 2016 and €400m in 2017. Lenders call for €400m reduction – no mention of €200m
The Council of Europe has said the referendum would “fall short of international standards” if held as planned on Sunday, citing the short notice given to voters and the lack of clarity in the question to be put to voters.
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