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EU response to Greece dominates debate on outgoing Latvian presidency


Greece and the referendum on the bail-out proposals were the focus of the 7 July plenary debate on the outgoing Latvian presidency of the Council. Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma also discussed the challenges and the achievements of the outgoing Council presidency with MEPs and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission

Latvian Prime Minister Straujuma opened the debate by stressing that the Latvian presidency had been a very challenging and dynamic period for Europe. Initially Latvia had three priorities: a competitive Europe, a digital Europe and an engaged Europe. However,  Straujuma pointed out: “Life brought in its corrections.  Terrorist attacks and humanitarian crisis at the borders of Europe required an immediate action from the EU. Now all our thoughts go to Greece. I hope that the new minister of finance of Greece and the prime minister of Greece will bring to the table constructive proposals."

Juncker spoke against Greece leaving the eurozone: "I am against a Grexit, it should be clearly avoided. There are those that openly campaign for an exit of Greece from the eurozone. This is a simplistic answer and then it is a wrong answer. The EU is all about compromise. And this is the job of the Commission. We have to put large egos away and face this situation. It is time to sit around the table again. We are going to talk again this evening by turning down the rhetorical volume."

Manfred Weber, the German chair of the EPP group said about austerity: “If Europe is not willing to carry out reforms, this continent has no future. Latvia is an excellent example." He also added: “Solidarity is important, democracy is important, but we have also rules to be complied with."

Gianni Pittella, the Italian chair of the S&D group, agreed with Juncker: "This is a time for action and for solutions." On the referendum outcome, he said: "Too much is at stake. We cannot be playing with the future of Europe and it is very important that Mr Tsipras and his government come with some sensible proposals at this evening's summit. We have to try to build bridges to allow Greece's citizens to breathe again."

Roberts Zīle, a Latvian member of the ECR group, said Latvia has had to cope with its austerity programme and any possible deal with Greece should be fair to Latvians.


Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian leader of ALDE,  urged the  EU to “come back to common sense”. “People are talking about Grexit as it was nothing, when in reality is not about Greece that we are talking, we are talking about the possibility to have a healthy monetary union, capable of solving a problem like this," he said. He criticised the International Monetary Fund and called on the Greek government to “come forward with a credible real reform package, not a number of accounting measures”.

Rebecca Harms, the German co-chair of the Greens/EFA group, said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's "first job is to unite his country" following the referendum. She also thanked the Latvian presidency of the Council for its work, saying: "Small countries should be bridge-builders in Europe".

UK EFDD member Paul Nuttall said that the Latvian presidency had not achieved good results with the migration and Greek crises: "You have done absolutely nothing while we watch the EU project fall to pieces.”

"What about the people? You just spoke about multinationals and big corporates!” Italian ENF member Gianluca Buonanno told Juncker. Showing little German and European flags, he said: "This is the German flag and this is the European one. I do not want to die under the German flag. Before there was Nazism, now there is economic Nazism."

Krisztina Morvai, a non-attached member from Hungary, said: “We have here Mr Juncker from Luxemburg representing the happy western countries but we haven’t heard anything on why people are leaving their own countries." She added: “How long we will hear about first and second class countries in the EU?”

The current situation concerning Greece will be also addressed in plenary on Wednesday morning during a debate on the conclusions of the European Council on 25-26 June and of the euro summit on 7 July 2015. Council President Donald Tusk will also take part.