BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Greece could not leave the euro zone without also exiting the European Union, according to the terms of the EU’s treaties, the European Commission said on Thursday.
“The treaties indeed confirm what we have been saying here: the treaty doesn’t foresee an exit from the euro zone without exiting the EU, so indeed that is the current situation,” European Commission spokeswoman Karolina Kottova said.
Her comment came at a regular news briefing, when asked about the provisions of EU treaties, without referring to any particular member state.
Greece’s government is on the brink of collapse, casting doubt on its plans to hold a referendum on staying in the euro zone, as European leaders contemplate a Greek exit to preserve the single currency.
Prime Minister George Papandreou chaired an emergency cabinet meeting in Athens, with his finance minister in revolt against a plebiscite, after the leaders of France and Germany gave Greeks an ultimatum to make up their minds.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Papandreou at a meeting in Cannes on Wednesday that Athens would not receive a cent more in aid until it votes to meet its commitments to the euro zone. Greece was due a vital 8 billion euros instalment this month.
But the Commission said the place of Greece was within the euro zone and there were instruments in place to ensure that.
“We see Greece within the euro and the necessary instruments are in place and an agreement has been reached,” Kottova told the news briefing. “So, as far as we are concerned, this is the only option that is on the table.”
Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Rex Merrifield