Europe blackmailing Greece, says minister in Athens

MOSCOW. KAZINFORM - Greece has lived under the toughest pressure on the part of European institutes in the past few months, the Greek Minister of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy, Panagiotis Lafazanis said on Monday in an interview with the Rossiya'24 news channel, Kazinform refers to TASS.

"The country has lived under the toughest imaginable pressure from European institutes in the past five months," he said. "They're forcing us to do the things they'd like us to do."

"This unprecedented blackmail put us in the face of a choice, namely, either we accept what they recommend and what will put Greece to its knees and will destroy the remainders of our economy and society, or else we pull out of the euro area," said Lafazanis, one of the leaders of the ruling Coalition of the Radical Left.

"But we didn't accept this blackmail and told them we must ask our people whether or not it accepts blackmailing," he said. "Hence we needed a referendum."

Overnight to Saturday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made public the government's decision to hold a nationwide referendum on July 5, in the course of which the Greeks would be asked about their attitude to the new belt-tightening measures the EU and the IMF were insisting on in exchange for further aid.

Following the announcement, the European institutes only stepped up the pressure on Athens, Lafazanis said.

"Instead of supporting our intension to ask the people, they continue intimidating us," he said. "They've blocked two fund facilities for us. That's an unprecedented political and economic blackmail."

Alexis Tsipras said earlier the creditors' proposals encroached on the European rules and on the Greek people's right to employment, equality and dignity. "They demonstrate that the true objective of some of our partners was to humiliate a whole nation, not to achieve agreement with all the parties concerned," he said.

"We'll certainly respond to the ultimatum on the basis of a sovereign expression of will by the people," Tsipras said.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said in an interview with the BBC on Sunday that the creditors' decision to cancel financial support for Greece was "appalling".

"Nevertheless [...] we have a clear consciousness," Varoufakis said. "We know that have bent over backwards to accommodate the institutions, the Troika (meaning the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF - TASS), our European partners, and they have not come to the party, they have not met us halfway".

Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, the founder of the anti-austerity Independent Greeks party, issued probably the boldest characteristic to proposals on austerity measures as he addressed the national parliament on Saturday.

These recommendations were tantamount to "outright fascism that aims to put Greece to its knees and to humiliate it," he said.

"Is the stay within the EU worth taking the national flag down and renouncing Greece's sovereignty?" Kammenos said. "We insist on a democratic Europe, on a Europe of human rights, and that's why the Greek referendum is important for the entire European continent".

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