Greek referendum vote ‘cannot be taken lightly’ – Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says referendum result carries consequences not only for Greece, but also for the people in creditor countries and for whole European project

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

The resounding ‘No’ vote by the Greek people cannot be taken lightly since it carries consequences not only for Greece, but also for the people in creditor countries and for the whole European project, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this evening.

In a tweet, Muscat said the Greek government sought to protect its people’s interests in the way it deemed best. “People in creditor now expected their representatives to protect their interest and that of the whole referendum.”

Partial results published by the country’s interior ministry have shown that 60.4% of Greeks voted to reject a bailout offer from creditors, while 40.1% voted yes. The ‘No’ victory suggest voters had defied a call from across Europe that rejection of the creditors’ terms would set their country on a path out of the euro.

The partial result triggered widespread celebrations across Greece, with supporters of the ‘No’ vote coming out in full force.

The ballot asked voters to decide whether or not to accept international creditors’ proposals for more austerity in exchange for rescue loans needed to avoid default and a banking collapse.

Greece finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said the Greek people have given a clear message – no to more cuts, yes to real reforms. “Today’s no is a big yes to a democratic Europe, and it strengthens the protection that Greece offers its people.”

The ‘No’ vote leaves Greece and the Eurozone in unchartered waters; the Eurozone could lose its first member with the risk of further unravelling to come, while Greece is expected to run out of money within days unless the European Central Bank provides an emergency lifeline. More than likely, the ECB will continue to provide financial assistance, while the troika of creditors – the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – will see how things pan out and act accordingly.

On their part, officials from the Greek government who had called for a ‘No’ vote to give the debt-ridden country greater leverage to secure a better deal from its creditors, immediately said they would try to start with their Eurozone partners.

“The negotiations which will start must be concluded very soon, even within 48 hours," government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis told Greek television." We will undertake every effort to seal it soon.”

Eurozone partners are expected to meet next week to discuss the way forward for Greece. However, it remains unknown whether softer terms would be offered to Greece. On one hand, the Eurozone leaders could stick to their guns and refuse, while on the other hand, the leaders could accede to the ‘No’ result and propose softer bailout terms and possibly debt relief. Even if negotiations were to restart, German chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that any talks on a new bailout would have to start from scratch with different conditions.

Similarly, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat insisted that the referendum result will have a clear bearing on Europe’s willingness to help Greece, and at what price.

“Just as Greece is within its democratic rights to hold a referendum, the Eurozone leaders also have a choice to decide whether Greece should continue to be helped to remain in the Eurozone, and at what price. The result will influence the help given to Greece and the EU’s attitude towards Greece,” Muscat said on Sunday morning.