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Papadimoulis: Not a 'No' to Europe

The Greek Vice-President of the European Parliament would continue to negotiate with the country's creditors after the coming referendum in Greece. But he rejects a suggestion for similar referenda in other EU countries.

Deutsche Welle: Mr. Vice President, if the Greek people decide in Sunday's referendum to reject the offer made by Eurogroup finance ministers specifying the conditions under which they're prepared to extend further loans to the Greek government, what will happen next Monday? What is your strategy?

Dimitrios Papadimoulis: First, we must make use of the last hours of the day to try to find a solution together. Yesterday, the chairmen of all the various parties in the European Parliament asked all political leaders in Europe to make one more effort at achieving an agreement. The interim assistance program [providing loans from Europe to Greece's government] should be extended. Then the Greeks should freely and democratically express their will - that's what is consistent with European values.

In any case, it's of mutual interest for Greece and Europe to reach an agreement. The cost of failure would be high for everyone, not just for the Greeks, but for the whole EU. The cost would be not only financial, but also geopolitical in nature. I think there should be no threats or blackmail from any side. Whether today or on Monday, we have to open the door to an acceptable solution. That's in our common interest.

"We do not want to be blackmailed"

DW: What happens if there is a No vote on Sunday, rejecting the Eurogroup's proposed deal terms? Would your government then return to Brussels on Monday and continue to negotiate?

Papadimoulis: Yes, of course. The No would not be a No to Europe, nor would it be a No to the eurozone, nor a No to Greece's membership in the monetary union, nor a No to a continuing search for a solution. The No would be directed only against a proposal that was not agreed. This is a No to an ultimatum and a No to blackmail. The Greek government isn't blackmailing anyone, and likewise, we do not want to be blackmailed.

DW: In the event that the Greek people on Sunday says Yes to the referendum question, and thereby accepts the proposals and conditions from the Eurogroup: What happens on Monday? Will the government return to the negotiating table, or resign because it wanted a No vote?

Papadimoulis: Yesterday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview everything that needs saying. I agree with him. Answers will be given by means of a process that is consistent that our constitution, with democracy and parliamentary rules.

DW: In other words, the Prime Minister would resign? He was not very clear in his interview.

Papadimoulis: It will be clear after Sunday. Now is not the time to answer this question. Now we have to work actively to find a solution today.

"A sense of reality requires a solution"

DW: The Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras yesterday also said in a television interview that Greece owes the European Central Bank about 120 billion euros in connection with the ECB's bank bailout fund (ELA) and other funding pots. He argues that Greece could not be allowed to leave the euro, because that money would be lost. Therefore, the Europeans won't throw Greece out of the eurozone, because they cannot afford to do so. Isn't that a kind of blackmail?

Papadimoulis: No, it's a sense of reality that says it's in the common interest of all sides to find a solution. If you look at recent developments in the bond markets and consider the stability of the euro, then you'll see that the only option - not only for Greece, but for the whole eurozone - is to find a solution. I think that for all European leaders - despite some differences - a Grexit would be a bad scenario. Membership in the euro is irreversible. This is a strong argument for Europe. We must work together to secure that.

DW: They say that the Greek referendum is an example of democracy. Shouldn't other euro area member states also consult their peoples, and ask if they're willing to continue paying for Greece? Shouldn't the Germans, French, Dutch and others also hold a referendum?

Papadimoulis: No, I don't think now is the right time to conduct such a philosophical discussion.

DW: But that would be democracy too, wouldn't it?

Papadimoulis: No, no, I don't want to deal with that topic right now.

Dimitris Papadimoulis (60) is Vice President of the European Parliament. He is a member of Syriza, the current ruling party in Greece's national parliament.

Interview by DW's Bernd Riegert.