ATHENS — A refusal by Greece to repay bailout debts would be “suicidal” for the country, the European Union’s top finance official said Monday in a clear warning to the country’s popular opposition.
EU Finance Commissioner Pierre Moscovici made the remarks after a three-hour meeting with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
“The idea of contemplating the possibility not to reimburse a huge debt is suicidal — it’s not possible, you’ll be in default and that’s what we’ve been trying to avoid for years,” Moscovici said.
Moscovici’s two-day visit went ahead despite stalled negotiations between Greece and bailout creditors, and took place ahead of a parliamentary vote that could topple Greece’s pro-bailout government this month.
“There is a need for structural reforms. It’s not only for Greece, it’s for all the countries in the eurozone … It would be a pity for (Greece) not to go on.”
Greek lawmakers will start voting Wednesday for a new Greek president, in a ballot likely to last three rounds through Dec. 29.
Samaras could be forced to call an early general election if he fails to attract enough support from the opposition for a government-backed candidate.
The anti-bailout Syriza party is pressing for a snap election, arguing that austerity policies have failed. After a brutal six-year recession, it says Greece still has an unsustainable debt burden which cannot be repaid to rescue lenders in full.
Syriza retains a lead in the latest opinion poll published Monday by private Real FM radio. It projected a general election victory for the left-wing party by a 5.1 percentage-point margin over the conservative New Democracy. However, victory on such a scale would not give Syriza enough seats to govern without a coalition.
The political uncertainty has rattled Greek markets over the past week or so as investors have fretted over the country’s place in the 18-country eurozone.
A spokeswoman for the EU Commission, Mina Andreeva, said the bloc was not considering a Greek exit from the Eurozone.
She told reporters in Brussels: “Whatever happens, for the European Commission the only viable scenario that we are working on is to keep Greece firmly in the eurozone.”