EU should negotiate with Greece if No wins referendum, French minister

A Greek woman leaves the polling booth in Athens on Sunday 5 July
A Greek woman leaves the polling booth in Athens on Sunday 5 July Reuters/Marko Djurica

Europe should continue to negotiate with Greece even if the No wins in Sunday's referendum, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron said as Greeks voted on the terms for their country's debt bailout. As French business leaders expressed concern at the possible results, left-wingers criticised President François Hollande for failing to back Greece's Syriza government.


"Whatever the result, we must resume political discussions tomorrow," Macron told a forum on the economy in the southern French city of Aix-en-Provence Sunday.

"But, if the No wins, it will be our responsibility not to create the Treaty of Versailles of the eurozone," he went on in a reference to the treaty that imposed harsh conditions on Germany at the end of World War I.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

But, although he said that European leaders should resist the temptation to "crush a people", Macron also criticised the "cynicism" of Greece's left-wing leaders under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, accusing them of presenting a biased question in the referendum.

On the French hard left, Communist Party leader Pierre Laurent accused Hollande of being "soft" on the quesiton and letting down the Greek government.

"When the decision was taken by the creditors to refuse an agreement that had actually been reached, he should have opposed the show of force in France's name and said extremely clearly that he opposed any solution that meant placing Greece and its government beyond the pale," Laurent said.

His ally Jean-Luc Mélenchon told the conference of his Left Party that France should prevent Greece's expulsion from the eurozone and hold its own inquiry into the legitimacy of France's public debt.

Speaking at the same conference that Macron was attending, Pierre Gattaz of the bosses' union Medef called for Greece's problems to be sorted out "because they are creating general instability".

The crisis could have unpredictable consequences, he said, "so I hope that political solutions will be reached, so as to reestablish the serenity of development and growth".

The majority of French people think Tsipras is right to oppose the European Union over Greece's debt, an opinion poll published by Le Parisien newspaper on Sunday found.

It reported that 58 per cent of those asked held that opinion, even if 51 per cent had a poor opinion of the Greek prime minister.

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