Athens will seal a debt deal regardless of the referendum's results, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has told a German newspaper. He accused his German counterpart of wanting a Grexit over two years ago.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis appeared confident in an interview with Germany's "Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung" (FAS) that Greeks would vote against the reforms that the country's international creditors - the eurzone, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - had proposed and that his government would still have the citizens' mandate after Sunday's poll.
Regardless of which side Greeks take in the referendum, Athens would seal a pact with its creditors on Monday, Varoufakis told the Sunday paper in comments made available ahead of publication.
"Do not listen to those who say, the offer is not valid anymore - of course it is still valid, because it is what they want," Varoufakis said, referring to changes in pensions and the labor market, which the ECB and the IMF had pushed Athens to implement in exchange for the billions of euros the country needs.
If people voted overwhelmingly in favor of a "yes," then the deal would be according to the EU's conditions and if they voted "no," creditors would have "no legal grounds to throw Greece out of the euro, and then the real negotiation will start with creditors," Varoufakis wrote in the Greek daily "Kathimerini."
Earlier on Saturday, Varoufakis accused creditors of trying to "terrorize" Greece into accepting additional austerity reforms. Greece went into arrears after missing a payment to the IMF at the end of June and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for a referendum to decide if Greece should accept bailout conditions set by the IMF, ECB and eurozone.
Tsipras' left-wing government has called on the public to vote "no" at the referendum, saying that such an outcome would not result in Greece being kicked out of the eurozone. Polls from Friday pointed to a slim lead for the "yes" camp but added the vote was too close to predict reliably. Tsipras and Varoufakis both said they would resign if voters approved the referendum question.
Greece accounts for just 2 percent of the eurozone's output, but seeing the cradle of Western democracy thrown out of the common currency union would likely be a massive political blow - to Greece and the rest of Europe.
"Even if we can cope with such a development in terms of financial policy, a Grexit would be a disastrous signal to countries outside the European Union," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the "Tagesspiegel am Sonntag" newspaper.
A temporary Grexit?
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told Saturday's edition of "Bild" that should Greece end up leaving the eurozone after Sunday's referendum, there was a chance the country's departure would be only temporary.
"Greece is a member of the eurozone," he said. "There's no doubt about that. Whether with the euro or temporarily without it: only the Greeks can answer this question. And it is clear that we will not leave the people in the lurch."
How exactly a temporary - or even a permanent - exit from the eurozone would work, however, has baffled economists.
Varoufakis also attacked Schäuble for insisting on austerity reforms.
"Mr. Schäuble made it clear in 2012 that he would prefer a Grexit," Varoufakis told the FAS newspaper, adding that among all the creditors, the German finance minister was the one who was making things the most difficult for Athens.
Schäuble's attitude towards Greek has made him popular among his voters in Germany, the FAS reported. In Greece, citizens are showing their displeasure by printing pictures of Schäuble on placards saying "no" to the eurozone's proposals.
More than 10 million Greeks are voting on Sunday on the proposals put forward by their creditors.
mg/sms (Reuters, AFPD)