2 Nov 2011

Do your referendum quickly, Sarkozy and Merkel tell Greece

It sounds as though Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy didn’t wait for their meeting with Greek prime minister Papandreou here in Cannes. They’ve issued their demands over the phone. And by the look of it he might’ve accepted them.

It seems like the EU is saying “you can have your referendum if you must, but do it as quickly as possible (mid December) and we choose the question.”

Greeks, the EU is saying, should be asked not “do you back the painful bail-out deal” but “do you want to stay in the EU and the Euro – yes or no?”

This was going to be the subtext of Mr Papandreou’s campaign anyway. He’s convinced his opponents have no great “plan B.” The eurozone leaders want it to be written in headlines and on the ballot paper. It’s make your mind up time.

Read more: Greek PM survives vote but faces EU crisis talks

There were also suggestions that the German chancellor and the French president were going to suggest there should be a government of “national political unity” in Greece and were putting pressure on the main Greek opposition leader to move in that direction. There seemed to be echoes of something like that in European Commission President Manuel Barosso’s statement earlier – a rather weird, straight to camera job, reading over glasses then sweeping away without questions.

The world’s media is already gathering here in Cannes… I see the Chinese, the Americans at their press desks already. So the meeting between the leaders of Germany, France and Greece takes place in the world’s spotlight and it’s not surprising that the eurozone chiefs want to have worked out the conclusions before it happens.

Elsewhere, there are signs that Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi is going to talk about having “urgent decrees” imposing tougher regimes on the state sector and welfare. The postponement of an EFSF bond sale today didn’t augur well for the “bazooka” bail-out fund… it’s supposed to be raising £1tr euros but seems nervous of raising £3bn euros.

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