EUROZONE finance ministers have rejected a request by Greece to extend the deadline of its bailout programme until after a planned 5 July referendum.
Two eurozone officials said finance ministers would continue meeting in an informal session in Brussels without Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.
One official said: “There could not be an extension of the programme now because there was no basis for co-operation.”
Many of the 19 eurozone ministers said they were surprised and disappointed by the announcement of prime minister Alexis Tsipras to seek a referendum on the creditors’ latest proposal for a bailout.
The Greek parliament said members were due to vote on the referendum last night.
The proposal is made up of two documents – one called Reforms For The Completion Of The Current Programme And Beyond and another called Preliminary Debt Sustainability Analysis.
Aside from the issue of making these documents accessible to all voters, the parliament must also deal with the possibility of creditors withdrawing those proposals.
Germany’s vice chancellor said a Greek referendum on the bailout talks could in principle make sense, but that it should be clear to voters what they will be deciding on.
Sigmar Gabriel said: “We would be well-advised not simply to push this proposal from Mr Tsipras aside and say that it’s a trick. If the questions are clear – if it’s really clear that they are voting on a programme that has been negotiated, it could make sense.”
Across Athens, people started flocking to cash machines shortly after Tsipras announced the referendum, just after 1am local time. The length of queues at cash machines, and the availability of cash, varies widely. The Bank of Greece promised the flow of cash to ATMs will not be interrupted.
The Greek government said it would recommend Greeks vote “no” in the referendum on 5 July. What would happen in that case – whether Greece would have to leave the euro or try to renegotiate more time with creditors – is unclear.
Former prime minister Costas Karamanlis broke a long-standing silence and severely criticised the government’s “foolish choice”.
“The nation’s most vital interests demand that the country remains at the heart of Europe. The EU’s actual shortcomings do not, in any way, negate this,” he said.
“Foolish choices that undermine this principle push the country to adventures, with unpredictable and possibly irreversible consequences,” he added.
The Netherlands cautioned against granting any more time to Greece, which faces a debt deadline on Tuesday, when it has a ¤1.6 billion (£1.13 billion) repayment to make and its bailout programme expires.
Dutch state secretary Eric Wiebes said before the start of a eurozone finance ministers’ meeting: “I see no reason for delay. The positions are very clear. We have known the deadline for four months.”
The eurozone’s top official, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, warned that Greece has closed the door on further talks to end the stand-off with its creditors because it called for a referendum on the proposals with an advice to reject them.
He said before entering the eurozone finance ministers’ meeting: “I am very disappointed. After our last meeting, the door on our side was still open, but that door has closed on the Greek side.”
However, the head of the International Monetary Fund said that Greece’s creditors “will continue to work” for a deal to save the country.