Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said a referendum onEurope’s rescue package will confirm the nation’s membership of the euro as he stuck to plans to hold the vote amid signs his government may collapse.
“The referendum will be a clear mandate and strong message within and outside Greece on our European course and our participation in the euro,” Papandreou told his ministers in Athens early today, according to an e-mailed transcript. It will “ensure this course in the most decisive way.” The Cabinet voted unanimously to endorse the plan.
Papandreou will fly to France today to face European leaders surprised by his decision to put the bailout plan to a national vote and call a confidence vote in parliament. His grip on power weakened after a lawmaker from his socialist Pasok party defected, leaving him with 152 deputies in the 300-seat chamber, while another, Vasso Papandreou, called for the formation of a national unity government.
Another four lawmakers have criticized the plans for the referendum, stopping short of defection, and six members of the party called on the premier to resign in a joint letter, Athens News Agency said yesterday. Opposition parties have ramped up calls for elections.
‘Yes or No’
“The dilemma isn’t ‘this or another government,’” Papandreou said. “The dilemma is ‘yes or no to the loan accord’, ‘yes or no to Europe’, ‘yes or no to the euro.’”
The euro erased a decline of as much as 0.5 percent against the dollar after Papandreou’s Cabinet backed his proposal. The currency was at $1.3754 per dollar at 8:50 a.m. in Berlin, having earlier traded as low as $1.3637.
Government spokesman Elias Mosialos told reporters in Athens after the meeting the referendum would be held “as soon as possible.”
Papandreou’s decision to seek the support of Greek voters is a fresh challenge to a European Union-led bailout agreed last week that involves a 50 percent writedown on Greek debt and further austerity measures in that country. The risk is that rejection by a referendum would spark a disorderly default and call into doubt Greece’s membership of the euro.