Eurozone Crisis Talks to Dominate G20 Summit

Posted November 3rd, 2011 at 4:35 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

U.S. President Barack Obama has arrived in Cannes, France for a two-day summit with leaders of the world's leading 20 economies, a meeting expected to be dominated by the European debt crisis and Greece's surprise move to put a proposed bailout deal to a popular vote.

President Obama plans to hold separate meetings Thursday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, both of whom are trying to convince Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to abandon his plan to hold a referendum on the economic bailout package reached last week.

In an emergency meeting of European leaders ahead of the G20 summit, President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel said Greece would not receive “one more cent” of rescue loans from the EU or the IMF unless it abides by the terms of the deal.

Prime Minister Papandreou shocked Europe by unexpectedly announcing that Greek citizens would be able to vote on the bailout, which includes hugely unpopular austerity measures.

Though the wording of the proposed referendum is not clear, Mr. Papandreou said Wednesday that Greece's future participation in Europe's common currency was at stake in the vote.

On Thursday, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos broke ranks with Mr. Papandreou and spoke out against the referendum. Mr. Venizelos said Greece's status in the eurozone is a “historical conquest,” and that it cannot be made dependent on a popular vote.


President Sarkozy said that he hopes Greece would remain in the eurozone, but stressed that the stability of the euro was of greater importance than rescuing the Greek economy.

Mr. Sarkozy said that he respects the right of Greek citizens to vote on the bailout, but urged Greece to hold the referendum “as soon as possible,” saying Europe cannot be held in a “long period of uncertainty.” Mr. Papandreou says the referendum may be called for December 4 or 5.

Greek Cabinet ministers have previously given their support for the referendum plan. Mr. Papandreou's government faces a crucial vote of confidence on Friday.

The bailout agreement reached last week would provide Greece with an additional $140 billion in rescue loans. It also includes a 50 percent write-off on Greek debt to private European banks.

Before Mr. Papandreou's surprise announcement, the plan had been hailed as a crucial breakthrough in the efforts to solve the two-year-old European sovereign debt crisis.

Greece is not a member of the G20 group of leading and emerging economies, but Mr. Papandreou's referendum plan has become the summit's central issue.

Some analysts fear that the eurozone crisis will overshadow many other issues on the summit's agenda, such as implementing stronger financial regulations and generating sustained growth in the global economy.