Greece may reconsider a plan to hold a referendum on July 5 if it gets a new aid package that will be a “game changer” for its economy and eliminates the threat of exit from the euro altogether, Deputy Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said.
“We think that the referendum should continue, we also think that the referendum is part of the negotiating process,” Tsakalotos said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Athens. “If we get a deal that we can’t refuse we will reconsider that.”
Any new package should set looser fiscal targets to leave room for the government to make structural reforms and investments, said Tsakalotos, who is also a spokesman on economic issues for the government and headed Greece’s bailout negotiating team.
“The whole package must put aside once and for all the fear of Grexit,” he said. “We need that game changer.”
The comments come as Greece is staggering deeper into the economic unknown, saying it will miss a payment to the International Monetary Fund Tuesday and leaving the protection of Europe’s bailout regime at midnight.
Tsakalotos criticized the country’s creditors for not agreeing to a one-week extension of the bailout program ahead of Sunday’s referendum which is asking voters to accept or reject austerity measures proposed by international creditors.
“We should have been given that extension week, to give time to Greek people to decide what they want,” Tsakalotos said.
The Oxford-educated economist and Greek deputy foreign minister was asked in April to step into the shoes of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in day-to-day debt negotiations as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras moved to defuse the acrimony building up with creditors. Those talks came to an abrupt end after Tsipras rejected the creditors demands and turned to voters to decide if they would agree to more austerity in return for aid.
Tsakalotos said it would take “a very serious deal” for the government to cancel the referendum. If that happened, the government would negotiate for a new settlement that would allow the banks to reopen gradually, he said.
The government was forced to close the country’s banks and put limits on cash withdrawals after the European Central Bank froze its emergency lifeline to the cash-strapped lenders. With the Greece set to miss a $1.7 billion payment to the IMF and its bailout expiring Tuesday, European officials, including ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure, are openly discussing the possibility of the country crashing out of the euro.
“I’m not considering the break-up of the euro, and I don’t think our partners are either considering the breakup of the euro,” Tsakalotos said. “We really don’t want a rerun of 1930s politics.”