The European Union stands ready to face the aftershocks if Greece were to leave the eurozone, the EU's Trade Commissioner maintains. He says officials are already working on an emergency blueprint on how to survive.
The European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) are feverishly working on an emergency plan of action to be activated if debt-stricken Greece has to leave the 17-nation euro area, EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said in an interview for Friday's edition of the Dutch-language De Standaard newspaper.
His comments appear to be the first time that a high-ranking EU official has confirmed the existence of contingencies being taken for a possible Greek exit from the single currency bloc.
"A year and a half ago there may have been the danger of a domino effect," de Gucht said in reference to the risk of debt crisis contagion to other eurozone countries such as Spain and Italy. "But today there are, both within the European Central Bank and the European Commission, services that are busy working out emergency scenarios in case Greece doesn't make it."
No taboos anymore
De Gucht, a former Belgian foreign minister, hastened to add that in his opinion Greece had no better option than sticking to unpopular austerity measures and staying in the euro area. "But the endgame has started, and I do not know how it's going to play out," he commented.
The EU Trade Commissioner's message was echoed on Friday by the floor leader of Germany's co-ruling Free Democrats, Rainer Brüderle. "It would cost a lot of money, if Greece was to leave the club, but it would be manageable," he told the Handelsblatt business daily.
Since an inconclusive Greek election on May 6 that handed huge gains to parties categorically opposed to austerity and debt refunding, eurozone leaders have become increasingly worried about future developments. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had warned the second Greek vote next month would be about nothing less than the country's place in the euro area.
hg/ai (Reuters, AFP, dpa)