Commission 'not aware' of Greek euro exit plans
by Daniel Mason
The European Commission has said it is not making plans for a Greek euro exit, after reports surfaced that contingencies were being put in place for worst case scenarios, but admitted that "discussions" had taken place.
Yesterday Reuters, citing unnamed European Union sources, reported that eurozone officials had discussed measures including limiting the amount people could withdraw from cash machines, imposing capital controls and introducing border checks in the event of Greece leaving the currency bloc.
Greeks go to the polls on Sunday for elections that could determine the country's future in the single currency bloc. But a commission spokesman said today: "We are not aware of any such scenario or any such plan within the commission, which would amount to preparing for such scenarios, be it movement of capital or Schengen.
"What I can say is to reaffirm what the commission President JosÚ Manuel Barroso said at the last European Council. He said in very clear terms that there is a democratic process underway in Greece; we must of course respect the democratic process. We have to wait until the Greek people have decided on the future of their country on June 17. We can't allow ourselves to digress from the road we are following." However when pressed on the subject the spokesman, Olivier Bailly, made a point of differentiating between "plans" and "discussions".
He said: "I've not said that I'm not aware about any discussions, I've said I'm not aware about any plans, which is a slight difference." He suggested the commission was providing legal advice to others who were working on different outcomes. "Some people are working on scenarios; we are providing information about EU laws as guardian of the treaties." Nevertheless he insisted that this did "not mean the commission is working on a scenario" and had "one plan, and only one plan, to keep Greece in the eurozone".
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Financial Times today, Barroso said Europe needed to take a "very big step" towards deeper integration – including the creation of a banking union involving a single supervisor, a common deposit guarantee scheme and a rescue fund paid for by levies on financial institutions. Barroso said the set-up could be in place across all 27 member states by next year, but added that the United Kingdom, which has opposed joining an EU banking union, should be allowed to opt-out as long as it does not block progress.
Barroso – along with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker and European Central Bank president Mario Draghi – is due to present a roadmap towards a fiscal union in the eurozone at the next summit of EU leaders on June 28-29.