Greece says ‘No’ vote bolsters Europe

With 10 percent of votes counted, a 'No' vote is ahead with 59.8 percent in the referendum, while a 'Yes' lingers behind at 40.1 percent.

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A ‘No’ vote from Greeks to a bailout package from lenders on Sunday was a vote in favor of democracy and social justice that allowed Athens to call on its partners to find a fair deal, Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said.

“As of tomorrow, with this brave ‘No’ the Greek people handed us.... we will extend a helping hand towards our lenders. We will call on each one of them to find common ground,” Varoufakis told reporters. “As of tomorrow, Europe, whose heart is beating in Greece tonight, is starting to heal its wounds, our wounds. Today’s No is a big Yes to democratic Europe.”

German deputy chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras has “torn down the bridges” between Greece and Europe and new negotiations are “difficult to imagine” after the apparent ‘No’ vote in the Greek referendum.

Tsipras and his government are taking Greece down a path of “bitter renunciation and hopelessness,” Gabriel told the Tagesspiegel newspaper in the first high-level reaction from the German government.

Tsirpas has “torn down the last bridges which Europe and Greece could have crossed to find a compromise,” Gabriel said. “By saying ‘No’ to the eurozone’s rules ... negotiations over billions of euros in bailout programs are difficult to imagine.”

Germany’s foreign minister, however, said the Greek referendum result has to be accepted, and the ball is now in Athens’ court for the next steps.

“We have now to accept such a result, it is the result of a referendum which the Greek people took part. What conclusions can be made is first and foremost a decision for Greece, therefore the ball is now in Athens’ court,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Vienna.

Poland’s prime minister says that if final results in Greece’s bailout referendum are confirmed as “no,” she believes that Greece will have no choice but to leave the eurozone.

Ewa Kopacz spoke on Sunday as a partial count showed a significant majority of Greeks voting “no” in Sunday’s referendum.

Kopacz said that she suspects that if official results confirm a “no” victory, “the path of Greece can be only one: leaving the eurozone.”

Meanwhile, the leader of Spain’s leftist Podemos party on Sunday hailed early results from Greece’s referendum.

“Today in Greece democracy won,” Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, a close ally of Tsipras, posted on his Twitter page.

Another senior Podemos member, Rafael Mayoral, who was in Greece for the referendum, added: “Joy is in air at Syriza headquarters.”

With 10 percent of votes counted, a “No” vote is ahead with 59.8 percent in the referendum, while a “Yes” lingers behind at 40.1 percent.

Greece’s government said Sunday it was now stepping up efforts to reach a bailout agreement with creditors following a referendum that early TV polls suggested backed the government in saying “No” to harsh austerity terms.

“The initiatives will intensify from this evening (Sunday) onward so that there can be a deal,” government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said on Greek television.

He added that the Bank of Greece would also send a request to the European Central Bank requesting an increased emergency euro cash injection for Greece’s depleted banks.

The opposition accuses Tsipras of jeopardizing the country’s membership in the eurozone and says a “yes” vote is about keeping the common currency.

Merkel will travel to Paris on Monday afternoon to discuss the result of the Greek referendum with French President Francois Hollande, a German government spokesman said on Sunday.

Tsipras’ high-stakes standoff with lenders- the European Union and the International Monetary Fund - resulted in Greece defaulting on its debts this past week and shutting down banks to avoid their collapse, and lose access to billions of euros after an existing bailout deal expired.

(With agencies)

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