Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU’s chief executive, chided the Greek government and his own German critics on Tuesday and pledged to counter those he said were secretly trying to force Greece out of the euro zone.
In a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg ahead of a crunch euro summit in Brussels later in the day, the European Commission president said he would work to avoid Grexit but warned: “There are some in the European Union who openly or secretly are working to exclude Greece from the euro zone.”
He did not name Germany or its finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has suggested the euro zone might be better off without Greece. But, speaking in German, he made clear a broader anger at his own critics in Germany, notably those who said he had no right to negotiate on behalf of EU states.
And he opened his remarks by dismissing accusations in the German press that he had “taken cover” by not speaking in public since Greek voters ignored his urgings and backed their leftist government in a referendum on Sunday, rejecting a bailout offer.
Juncker, a veteran premier of Luxembourg and chair of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, also renewed criticism of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and ministers he said had called the Commission’s officials “terrorists”. Juncker said it was not clear what message Greek voters had endorsed by rejecting a deal which had expired several days before Sunday’s plebiscite.
“It’s not a ‘No’ to Europe, I’m told. It’s not a ‘No’ to the euro, I’m told. It cannot be a ‘No’ to the proposals of the institutions, because they were not on the table,” he said, calling it a “very grave mistake” by Tsipras to break off talks.
“The ball is in the court of the Greek government.”
Countering the impatience evident among some of Greece’s euro zone creditors, Juncker insisted that Europe could only solve its problems by negotiation. “This solution can’t be found today,” he said. “If it were, then it would be too simplistic.”
“We must set aside our little egos — and my big ego too — and deal with the situation as we find it,” he said. “My determination is to prevent a Grexit. I am against a Grexit.
“No one should want to throw the Greeks out,” he said.
“When European nations stop talking to each other, then we are heading for the end of the European Union.”