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‘Greek referendum is about two visions of Europe,’ Syriza minister tells France 24

FRANCE 24 screen grab

On the eve of a critical referendum, Greek minister and senior Syriza party member Giorgos Katrougalos tells FRANCE 24 that Europe’s elites are “allergic” to popular votes and are seeking regime change in Greece.

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After a dramatic week that saw Greece default on its debts, close its banks and start rationing cash, Greeks vote on Sunday on whether to accept or reject tough conditions sought by international creditors to extend a lending lifeline that has kept the debt-stricken country afloat.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has urged fellow Greeks to vote “No” to the new austerity measures proposed by the country’s creditors, saying this would strengthen his hand at the negotiating table. But EU leaders have warned Greek voters that a negative outcome could jeopardize the country’s place in the euro zone.

How Europe is sleepwalking towards Grexit

In an interview with FRANCE 24, Greece’s minister for administrative reforms dismissed EU warnings of “Grexit” as “psychological blackmail” designed to scare Greeks into saying “Yes” to more austerity.

“There is no kind of institutional provision in the treaties for [leaving the Eurozone],” Katrougalos said, accusing Europe’s elites of being “allergic” to referendums “because they don’t want people to speak about issues that are of vital interest to them”.

The senior Syriza official said Sunday’s vote was not only about Greece, but “about two opposing visions of Europe: a social one and a neoliberal one”.

Syriza to stay on if 'Yes' wins

Katrougalos said the Greek government had made a lot of concessions at the negotiating table before calling a referendum, claiming that the creditors’ rejection of proposals put forward by Greek negotiators were politically motivated.

“The real reason for rejecting our proposals was to get rid of the only left-wing government in Europe that could represent an alternative to the prevailing orthodoxy,” he said.

Asked whether he would resign in the event of a victory for the “Yes”, as Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has promised to do, Katrougalos said he understood that the finance minister could not accept a deal that was “bad for Greece” but that the Syriza-led government also had other duties to fulfill.

“We have a mandate to handle not just the European perspective, but also to break with the system of oligarchs,” he said. “And I don't think giving the power back to them is a good idea for the people of Greece.”

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