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Greek crisis: EU leaders ratchet up pressure over controversial referendum

Greek leader George Papandreou has been summoned for emergency talks with French and German leaders amid fears an EU deal could be derailed.

Papandreou with Sarkozy and Merkel in Brussels earlier this year
Papandreou with Sarkozy and Merkel in Brussels earlier this year
Image: Yves Logghe/AP/Press Association Images

THE PRIME MINISTER of Greece, George Papandreou, has been summoned for emergency talks by France and Germany after he surprised EU leaders by announcing a referendum on his country’s second bailout package.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel will meet Papandreou in Cannes today over the referendum plan, which has sparked turmoil in the Eurozone after leaders announced a deal on debt which it was hoped would calm markets.

Papandreou has today won support from his cabinet for the referendum move, Reuters report. In a seven-hour meeting, he told ministers:  “The referendum will be a clear mandate and a clear message in and outside Greece on our European course and participation in the euro. No one will be able to doubt Greece’s course within the euro.”

However, the Greek leader still faces a parliamentary vote of confidence on Friday, with only a wafer-thin majority. One deputy in his Pasok party has already stepped down over the referendum plan and several others have said they will do the same if it is not called off, according to the Guardian.

It is feared that a possible referendum – which is far from sure of a Yes vote amid widespread public anger in Greece at Papandreou’s government – could derail a wide-ranging deal struck by EU leaders last week to cope with the debt crisis.

Sarkozy told reporters yesterday that Papandreou’s move had “surprised all of Europe”, adding that the “plan adopted unanimously by the 17 members of the euro area last Thursday is the only possible way to resolve the problem of Greek debt”, Business Week reports.

Read more: EU leaders strike ‘comprehensive’ debt deal after hours of talks>

Read more: Markets drop on Greek referendum ‘grenade’>

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Michael Freeman

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