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Greek Official: 'Grexit' Would Cost Europe A Trillion Euros

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis speaks to the assembled media as he leaves his office in Athens.
Daniel Ochoa de Olza
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis speaks to the assembled media as he leaves his office in Athens.

Greece's finance minister has accused his nation's creditors of "terrorism" for trying to "instill fear in people" ahead of a referendum on whether to accept the harsh terms of an international bailout designed to keep Athens in the eurozone.

Yanis Varoufakis, in an interview with the Spanish daily El Mundo, said that there was too much at stake for his country to be kicked out of Europe's common currency — "as much for Greece as for Europe, I'm sure."

The Greek government, led by a leftist anti-austerity party that swept to power in January on a platform against making concessions to the country's creditors, has urged the Greek people to vote no in Sunday's referendum. But a flurry of opinion polls conducted in recent days have signaled a virtually even split among ordinary Greeks.

"If Greece crashes, a trillion euros (the equivalent of Spain's GDP) will be lost. It's too much money and I don't believe Europe could allow it," he told El Mundo, according to Reuters.

"Why have they forced us to close the banks? To frighten people. And when it's about spreading terror, that is known as terrorism," he added.

The tough talk comes after a weeklong bank holiday in Greece and the imposition of capital controls designed to prevent a collapse of the country's economy as citizens rush to withdraw euros.

Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble appeared to suggest that a no vote would not necessarily trigger a permanent "Grexit" from the common currency regime.

"Greece is a member of the eurozone. There's no doubt about that," Schaeuble told Bild in an interview, according to Reuters. "Whether with the euro or temporarily without it: Only the Greeks can answer this question. And it is clear that we will not leave the people in the lurch."

But a yes vote is likely to spell the end of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government.

As The Guardian notes:

"If Greece votes no, it's hard to see how it can stay in the euro, which will represent the most grievous blow in the 16-year history of a currency whose momentum was always meant to be irreversible.

"If yes wins, and [Greece's ruling] Syriza [party] duly falls, the victory for the European powers could prove to be pyrrhic. Too many will believe that Brussels, and more pointedly Berlin, engineered the toppling of a democratically elected government."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.