Greece Warns On Euro Exit If Bailout Not Signed

BBC News

Greece may have to leave the eurozone if it fails to secure its latest bailout from the EU, IMF and banks, a government spokesperson has warned.

“The bailout agreement needs to be signed otherwise we will be out of the markets, out of the euro,” spokesman Pantelis Kapsis told Skai TV.

The government is struggling with public opposition to new austerity measures, demanded by lenders. Analysts suggest the warning is designed to win support for the moves.

The Greek Prime Minister, former central banker Lucas Papdemos, is due to address the nation in the next few days to try to win support for new spending cuts and structural reforms.

The latest 130bn-euro bailout ($169.5bn, £108.7bn) was agreed in principle by EU leaders in October, conditional on Greece adopting further measures to cut its deficit and restructure its economy.

EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank inspectors are due in Athens later in January to review progress.

Figures on Greece’s public deficit for 2011 are expected later this month with some economists expecting the deficit to be wider than first thought.

Greece’s parliament approved its latest batch of austerity measures, including tax rises and spending cuts, in early December following the formation of an interim government led by Mr Papademos. However more measures are now expected to be needed.

“Not all reforms have been voted on, so the government is trying to give the message that we have to speed up the process. The message is people [should] tolerate [the changes] because the alternative is very serious,” said Professor Nickolaos Travlos, dean of the ALBA Graduate Business school in Athens.

“I do believe the majority of the Greek population want the country to stay in the eurozone,” he added.

New measures are expected to include a further reduction in pensions, public sector job cuts and cuts to social programmes and healthcare costs along with labour market changes and privatisations.

But protests against the measures have continued. On Monday, Greek doctors and pharmacists went on strike in the country’s first walkout of the new year.

State hospital doctors have said they will treat only emergency cases until Thursday, in protest at changes to healthcare provision.