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European Commission Official: No Vote Puts Greece In Weaker Position

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Greece still owes its creditors almost 250 billion euros, and yesterday's no vote has sent shockwaves through Brussels, the capital of the European Union. Joining us now on the line is the vice president of the European Commission for the euro and social dialogue - that's his title. He is Valdis Dombrovskis, a Latvian. Welcome to the program, sir.

VALDIS DOMBROVSKIS: Good afternoon.

SIEGEL: You've said that the vote in Greece widens the gap, provides no easy way out and that too much time and too many opportunities have been lost. Bottom line - does that mean, as far as you're concerned, Greece is probably leaving the euro right now?

DOMBROVSKIS: Well, if both sides are working seriously and constructively, there is always a possibility to find a solution. But it's also true that yesterday's referendum had made things more complicated, and the gap we need to breach has become wider.

SIEGEL: Wider - the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras seems to think that with 60 percent of Greeks backing him up, he's in a stronger position negotiating with Europe. Has he got that wrong? Is he in a weaker position?

DOMBROVSKIS: Well, it's certainly emphasized by European Commission, also by president of the Eurogroup already before the referendums that, actually, the no vote would dramatically weaken the negotiating position of the Greek government. And it will be more difficult to found a solution which all 19 - well, 19 including Greece - eurozone countries could support.

SIEGEL: But how do you answer the argument that if Greece adopts the policies that its creditors want it to pursue, it will cut spending, it will raise taxes, it will diminish growth and be even less able to pay back the debts that are saddling the country?

DOMBROVSKIS: Well, that's why institutions are so much stressing the need for a credible strategy out of the crisis because the first thing for Greece is to regain financial stability because without financial stability, there is no economic growth. Banks are worried. They are not lending to the real economy. Citizens are worried. They are not spending. Companies are worried. They are not investing. And if you restore financial stability, banks start lending to the economy, citizens start spending, companies start investing. It's something we saw in other pilgrim countries, like in Ireland, like in Portugal. And those countries which were implementing reforms were actually able to return to economic growth.

SIEGEL: Mr. Dombrovskis, just before you go, I want to ask you what you thought as you saw scenes of crowds of Greeks celebrating the victory of the no vote - the rejection of the terms that had been on the table but had expired. What was your reaction to those scenes of jubilation on behalf of a majority of Greek voters?

DOMBROVSKIS: Well, it's clear that there's not going to be quick and easy solutions to the problem. And I think it's very important that, also, the Greek government is constructive and honest to its citizens and tells the Greek citizens what are the consequences of different decision government is taking.

SIEGEL: Do you think they were less than honest in this case?

DOMBROVSKIS: Well, I'm not entirely convinced that all Greek citizens were explained what implications different decisions may create.

SIEGEL: Valdis Dombrovskis, vice president of the European Commission, thank you very much for talking with us today.

DOMBROVSKIS: Thank you. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.