News / USA

White House: Implement Euro Debt Deal Quickly

Demonstrator with a placard that reads 'G7-G8-G20-I have nothing' during a protest in Nice, France, Nov. 1, 2011.
Demonstrator with a placard that reads 'G7-G8-G20-I have nothing' during a protest in Nice, France, Nov. 1, 2011.

The White House on Tuesday said Greece's decision to hold a referendum on a European debt plan underscores the importance of moving quickly to implement the deal.

For weeks leading up to the announcement of a European debt agreement, the White House said the United States has confidence in the ability of European countries to find a solution to their fiscal woes.

At Tuesday's news briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did not deviate from that message, but said the referendum announcement by Prime Minister George Papandreou underscores the importance of moving ahead to work out the details and implement the European agreement.

"The decision made by the Greek prime minister, rather the announcement he made, just reinforces the notion that [Europeans] need to elaborate further and implement rapidly the decisions they made last week," he said.

Asked whether a Greek vote could place the European deal in jeopardy, Carney said only that President Barack Obama, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other administration officials remain engaged with their European counterparts.

Carney added he is not aware of any direct outreach by the White House to the Greek government, and that he could not speak for others in the U.S. government.

All eyes on the G20

At an event here in Washington, experts discussed the potential impact of the Greek referendum on the G20 summit this week in Cannes, France, which President Obama will attend.

Heather Conley, Europe Program Director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says the Greek decision will dominate the G20 summit.

"The G20 summit will certainly be fully overwhelmed by the European crisis, while quite frankly it is now going to be overwhelmed by this decision on holding this Greek referendum," she said.

Conley said European leaders were left "scrambling," with negative effects on stock markets. She also pointed to other developments, including the bankruptcy of brokerage firm MF Global with its unpredictable effects, and a weak European growth forecast as worrying events that will be on the minds of G20 leaders.

World financial markets fell sharply in the wake of the Greek announcement, which came as European capitals were absorbing a forecast of lower economic growth along with figures putting unemployment at an 11-month high.

President Obama's first meetings when he arrives in Cannes for the G20 summit will be with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The French and German leaders are expected to meet on Wednesday with officials from the International Monetary Fund and Greece to discuss the Athens' decision to put the European debt deal to a vote.

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