Greece’s Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos was unaware of the Prime Minister’s decision to call a referendum on the latest EU aid deal till the announcement was actually made, said a Greek government official to Reuters on Tuesday.
"Venizelos had no idea about the referendum,” said the official, who only spoke on condition of anonymity. “All he knew about was the vote of confidence. He told Papandreou he should inform foreign partners and a letter was drafted in the early morning hours."
The Finance Minister then had to be hospitalised early Tuesday after complaining of stomach pains. Though he was initially expected to be released late in the after to noon, a finance ministry statement revealed that Venizelos remained overnight in the hospital for observation.
According to the finance ministry, Venizelos, spoke that day on the phone with top officials from the EU and the IMF, as well as with other Greek lenders. It was unclear though on whether Venizelos had made these conversations while receiving treatment for his illness.
"Venizelos spoke with (German Finance Minister Wolfgang) Schaeuble, (IIF head Josef) Ackermann, (EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli) Rehn, (IMF mission chief for Greece Poul) Thomsen in an effort to save the sixth aid instalment, the PSI and the bailout deal as a whole," said a finance ministry official, who also requested anonymity, to Reuters.
The Finance Minister had been instrumental in negotiating for the bailout deal with the eurozone to date, though he was understood to have been supportive of Prime Minister George Papandreou’s call for a referendum.
Athens- based Antenna TV carried quotes made by Venizelos on Monday that signalled his approval of Papandreou’s referendum.
“This will provide a catharsis to our drama,” said Venizelos. “The referendum will give Greeks a chance to express themselves.”
Venizelos added that a rejection at the referendum for Greece’s new financing from international partners would lead to new “developments” that would be assessed by the government.
“Elections are part of the process and will happen sooner or later…we are not operating in regular times,” said the Finance Minister as quoted by Bloomberg.
Greeks will need to vote yes on the referendum if they wish to have access to the bailout cash that had been agreed upon at a European Union summit just last week. Venizelos had just returned from the marathon meetings in Brussels when the Prime Minister stunned the world by calling for a referendum on the bailout deal.