Merkel proposed Greek vote on EU
GERMANY HAS conceded that Chancellor Angela Merkel sounded out the Greek president on holding a referendum on EU membership on the same day as Greece’s general election next month.
Greek claims on Friday that the idea originated with Dr Merkel prompted a swift denial from Berlin. However, yesterday German officials confirmed Dr Merkel “raised the issue” with Greek president Karolos Papoulias during a telephone call, after a report to that effect appeared in the Bild tabloid.
German officials insisted the idea did not originate with the German leader.
“She wanted to know what Papoulias thought of the idea – not very much as it turned out,” said a senior Merkel aide. “That’s it.”
European officials say the idea of linking next month’s election to an EU referendum was first raised at last week’s euro group meeting in Brussels.
“[Dr Merkel] relayed to the president thoughts about holding a referendum in parallel with the elections on the question of whether Greek citizens wish to remain in the euro zone,” said Greek government spokesman Dimitris Tsiodras.
Reports of the intervention from Berlin caused a storm in the Greek media.
Last November, the German leader came under fire for telephoning the Italian president Giorgio Napolitano days before the resignation of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Adding to the controversy over Greece is a new book from former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin.
“If a country cannot or will not live under the discipline of a common currency, it should be free to return to its currency at any time,” Mr Sarrazin said.
He was similarly outspoken on the idea of eurobonds, or shared sovereign debt, revived last week by newly installed French president François Hollande. German supporters of eurobonds – primarily the opposition Social Democrats and Greens – were, Mr Sarrazin said, “driven by a very German reflex that penance for the Holocaust and world war is only completed when all our interests, including our money, have been laid in European hands”.