Greece must not remain euro member 'at any price': Juncker
Eurozone chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that the currency union hoped to keep Greece as a member "but not at any price", in an interview with German public television.
Juncker, who leads the club of finance ministers from the 17 countries using the euro, told ZDF from the Group of 20 summit in Cannes, southern France that the eurozone was not prepared to "constantly ride a rollercoaster" with Athens.
"I am absolutely convinced that everything must be done so none of the eurozone members leave the group of 17 but if that is the wish of the Greeks then we cannot force them to stay," he said.
"We need to know where this is going."
Juncker, who is also Luxembourg's prime minister, said the eurozone was at a crossroads.
"We are in a critical situation, the Greeks more than we are," he said.
"We are actively working to avert a calamity hitting the people in Luxembourg, in Germany or wherever else in the eurozone," he said.
"We are absolutely prepared for the situation I have described but I do not want to see it happen."
Asked about the atmosphere at a working dinner late on Wednesday with European and International Monetary Fund officials and Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, Juncker described it frankly as "lousy".
"I don't think he was very comfortable," Juncker said of the Greek leader at the meeting prompted by Papandreou's shock announcement on Monday that he would put the terms of a sweeping bail-out deal hammered out just last week to a referendum.
"Without pointing the finger, we indicated (to Papandreou) that his actions were disloyal in the sense that we would have liked it had he told us last Wednesday at the summit that he planned to put the question to a referendum," he said.
"Regardless of the formulation of the question, it is clear that Greece will say on December 4 whether it wants to stay in the eurozone," he said.
"We would like Greece to remain a member but not at any price."
Papandreou's shock announcement sent stock markets around the world into a tailspin by raising serious doubts whether the rescue deal can now be implemented and the eurozone kept together.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, furious over the move, warned Papandreou at the dinner that Greece must quickly abide by the terms of the agreement if it wants to stay in the euro.
In Paris, French European Affairs Minister Jean Leonetti told RTL radio that the euro and Europe could survive if Greece left the eurozone since Greece represented just 2.0 percent of eurozone gross domestic product and 4.0 percent of eurozone debt.
"Let's have no illusions, if Greece does not want the (rescue) plan it will not get the money," he said.
© 2011 AFP