Czech leaders say "Grexit" now looms large

Supporters of the No vote wave Greek flags after the referendum's exit polls at Syntagma square in Athens, July 5, 2015, photo: CTK

Politicians across the Czech political spectrum have been reacting to Sunday’s resounding 61 percent rejection by Greek voters of a bailout package put forth by the country’s creditors. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that with Sunday’s “no” vote, Greece has chosen the least favourable path — for itself, and for all of Europe.

Supporters of the No vote wave Greek flags after the referendum's exit polls at Syntagma square in Athens, July 5, 2015, photo: CTK
Reactions from Czech politicians to Sunday’s no vote was swift and uncharacteristically blunt, underscoring a growing sense that by voting “no” Greece was effectively bidding farewell to the eurozone club. In a press statement on Monday, Bohuslav Sobotka added that while he appreciated the continued efforts of German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande to help Greece, it will prove to be almost impossible to keep the country within the eurozone against its will.

Finance Minister and Deputy PM Andrej Babiš also reacted to the vote, telling ČTK that given its weak economy, Greece should never have been allowed to enter the eurozone in the first place. Babiš argued that as far back as five years ago, it was clear that Greece was going to be unable to repay its growing debts, and added that a significant part of the country’s debts would now likely have to be written-off.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats, Petr Fiala, accused the European Union of wasting 240 billion euros in pursuit of what he termed the “political dogma” of closer European integration. He also said the current crisis served as a warning to the Czech Republic against “irresponsible socialist policies”. The party’s deputy chair, Jan Zahradil, echoed this eurosceptical stance, calling on the EU to ready itself to permit Greece to leave the eurozone.

Meanwhile, former finance minister and TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek told reporters that while difficult to predict, he believed the most likely outcome was that Greece would now leave the eurozone.

People line up to use ATM machines of a bank after government's decision for limited daily cash withdrawals to 60 euros, Athens, July 6, 2015, photo: CTK
Back in late June, Czech President Miloš Zeman also predicted that the likely outcome of the current Greek crisis would be its expulsion from the eurozone. The president has held that view for a number of years, noting as far back as 2012 that Greece had been living above its means, and had falsified economic data to smooth its 2001 entry into the single currency bloc.

The Greek crisis is also making headline news in the Czech press. The daily Mladá fronta dnes carried the headline on Tuesday “Greeks reject the euro”. iDnes.cz commentator Vladimír Votápek argued that while the Greek government was understandably defending its interests, it should not be surprised that its creditors are doing the same. While in Hospodářské noviny, commentator David Klimeš argued that Greece lacks the necessary political leadership to guide it from its current crisis. On the other side of the political equation, Deník Referendum commentator Ondřej Vaculík noted that a country that had given the world such Greek tragedies as Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles requires greater European solidarity. If every European contributed 10 euros, he argued, Greece might stand a chance of returning to its former glories.