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European Leaders Warn Greeks On 'No' Vote In Referendum

Pensioners, who usually get their payments at the end of the month, wait outside a closed bank in Thessaloniki, Greece, on Monday. Greece's government announced capital controls, and the country's banks remained closed Monday.
Giannis Papanikos
Pensioners, who usually get their payments at the end of the month, wait outside a closed bank in Thessaloniki, Greece, on Monday. Greece's government announced capital controls, and the country's banks remained closed Monday.

Updated at 11:42 a.m. ET

European leaders are warning Greeks who vote "no" in Sunday's referendum will be choosing to leave the eurozone, the bloc of countries that uses the common currency.

"It is democracy, it is the right of the Greek people to decide what they want for their future," French President Francois Hollande said in Paris. "What is at stake is whether or not Greeks want to stay in the eurozone (or) take the risk of leaving."

The comment was echoed by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who said on Twitter:

The appeals to vote "yes" in the referendum come after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras broke off talks Saturday with his country's creditors and announced he was putting the terms of their proposal to Greek voters on July 5. He is urging Greeks to vote "no."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that he felt "betrayed" by the call for a referendum, but he said there's still a chance for Greece to negotiate a deal with international creditors. As reporter Teri Schultz in Brussels tells our Newscast unit, it appears there is no chance of negotiations before Greece runs out of money Tuesday evening.

"It is a moment of truth," Juncker said of the referendum. "Greece is a member of the European family and I want this family to stay together."

The uncertainty over Greece's future in the eurozone pushed stock markets in Europe and Asia sharply lower amid fears an exit could adversely affect the global financial system. As reporter Lauren Frayer tells our Newscast unit:

"Both Spain and Portugal's borrowing cost has risen, but not as much as in previous years when Greece approached the brink of default. Stocks have slumped, especially those in Spanish banks. Spain got a bank bailout three years ago, but its economy has since rebounded. Spain's economy minister says there's no risk of contagion here."

Meanwhile, banks and ATMs in Greece remain closed after the government announced capital controls in response to the European Central Bank's decision to stop an emergency credit line to Greek banks. Reporter Joanna Kakissis in Athens tells Newscast, "People with debit cards from foreign banks can still withdraw as much as they want, but many cash machines are out of money because panicked Greeks emptied them this weekend."

As the Two-Way reported Sunday, Greece looks all but certain to miss a scheduled $1.8 billion loan payment to the International Monetary Fund — a move that could see it leave the eurozone.

The European Central Bank announced it won't extend emergency liquidity to Greek banks after the announcement of the referendum. That move prompted Tsipras to impose capital controls to prevent a run on banks. Greek banks will be closed for the next six business days.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, in a phone call with Tsipras, stressed the need for Greece to resolve differences with its creditors. Lew said that "it is in the best interests of Greece, Europe and the global economy to find a sustainable solution that puts Greece on a path toward reform and recovery within the eurozone."

Greece has not yet recovered from the economic recession that hit the globe in 2008. Its creditors — the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank — want it to overhaul its economy. The concessions the lenders are seeking center on pensions reform, something the left-wing Greek government says it cannot accept because the country's pensioners have borne the brunt of the Greek downturn.

Without some concessions, creditors say they won't release $8.17 billion, the latest tranche in several infusions that will go to repay Greece's outstanding loans. Without that money, Greece will fall into arrears and likely will exit the eurozone, a move that would have an even worse effect on the country's economy, and hurt the rest of the EU, too.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.