Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said euro-region governments want Greece to remain a member of the currency bloc, though not at all costs.
“Greece on Dec. 4, that’s when the referendum will take place, has to deal with the question whether it wants to stay in the euro zone,” Juncker said today on ZDF German television. “We would like Greece to remain a member but we’re not saying Greece has to stay a member at all costs.”
European leaders for the first time are raising the specter of the euro area splintering, choosing to treat Greece’s referendum on the terms of a bailout package as an in-or-out vote on the debt-stricken nation’s future in the currency union. Led by Germany and France, the guardians of the euro yesterday cut off financial aid for Greece until the ballot determines whether it deserves a fresh batch of loans needed to stave off default.
Juncker, who also chairs meetings of euro-region finance ministers, said Europe can’t be forced to “ride a permanent roller coaster with Greece.”
“We need to know where we’re headed and the Greeks need to tell us where they want to go,” he said. “I’m decidedly of the opinion that everything must be done to prevent one euro member unlatching itself from the chain, but if that were the wish of the Greeks, and I feel it would be wrong if that was their desire, then we can’t force them to their happiness.”
Authorities are “absolutely prepared” for the possibility of Greece leaving the 17-member currency union and looking at ways to ensure that this can be done without harm for the region as a whole, according to Juncker.
“It’s not only about Greece, it’s also about possible contagion dangers for others and we’ll do everything -- also on the occasion of the euro group meeting next Monday -- to build firewalls,” he said.