Saturday

20th Jul 2019

Greece flip-flops on troika talks

  • "We want a few short weeks to put together a new programme, a new deal for Greece with our creditors," says Varoufakis (Photo: BBC)

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has denied previous statements that Greece will no longer deal with the troika of international creditors following icy talks with the head of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

Speaking to the BBC on Friday evening (30 January), the maverick economist sought to nuance his statements made in Greek during a joint press conference with Dijsselbloem.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"I've never said that we are not interested in discussing with our creditors, exactly the opposite, we are very keen to enter into fruitful negotiations and deliberations with the ECB, the IMF, the European Commission and every single member state of the eurozone to which we belong and rightfully find ourselves in," Varoufakis said.

He said it might have been a translation problem, that he only meant the second tier of the troika - the "very good people" who come to Greece to oversee the implementation of the programme that "has utterly failed over the last five years."

"We want a few short weeks to put together a new programme, a new deal for Greece with our creditors," Varoufakis said.

He called into question the entire logic of the bailout, comparing Greece with a family who loses its income and draws from a credit card to pay for its mortgage.

Asked whether or not Greece will draw the last, €7bn, tranche from the bailout programme, he insisted that what the new Greek government is interested in is a deal on the "real problem" - the insolvency of Greece, rather than piling on new debt.

Greece was given a bailout extension of two months last December when the previous government led by the conservative PM Antonis Samaras failed to deliver on privatisations and further structural reforms required by the troika.

Since the left-wing Syriza party came to power earlier this week, it has halted privatisations and promised to restore labour rights and undo some of the measures implemented under the bailout programme. This has worried the markets and seen capital flight (by one account €20bn has left the country since early December) from Greece.

Varoufakis said he is in principle in favour of privatisation and attracting foreign investors, but criticised what was done under the bailout programme as being a "fire sale in the middle of a deflationary process".

"We are not at all against structural reforms, we want to deepen them, make them more extensive - Greece has not been reforming over the last 5 years, it has been deforming," Varoufakis said.

Cancelling half of Greece's debt is the core demand of Syriza and the new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras.

But EU politicians - including Dijsselbloem on Friday - have warned that Greece needs to stick to its commitments and that while some debt repayments can be delayed and made with lower interest rates, the idea of debt forgiveness is unacceptable.

"Taking unilateral steps and ignoring previous arrangements is not the way forward," Dijsselblloem said during a press conference where his body language suggested he had been through very tense talks with Varoufakis.

Dijsselbloem rejected Syriza's idea of convening a European conference on debt. "This conference already exists and it's called the Eurogroup," he told the press conference.

He added that Greece and the troika will have to decide what will happen next before the bailout extension ends, on 28 February.

French mediation

Meanwhile, in Strasbourg, French President Francois Hollande met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for an informal dinner together with the head of the EU Parliament, Martin Schulz, who earlier in the week went to Greece to meet Tsipras.

Greece was not the only topic at the three-hour dinner, but it did come up, with Hollande seeking to find a "method" and "options" for establishing a dialogue with Tsipras, Le Figaro reports.

Tsipras will visit Paris next Wednesday, while Varoufakis is expected to meet his French counterpart on Monday. The EU commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, is also expected to meet Tsipras in Brussels next week.

Who's in the new Greek cabinet?

The new Greek cabinet contains very wide-ranging ideologies and traditions, which will affect how the government is able to negotiate with Brussels and Berlin.

France, US support Greece in debt battle

Paris and Washington have expressed support for Athens’ attempts to renegotiate the terms of its bailout, as Germany comes under increasing pressure to reconsider its approach to austerity.

Germany: No need to get rid of troika

Germany sees no need to put an end to the 'troika' of international creditors in Greece, in a snub to EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Opinion

Hope and fear: Greeks after the Syriza victory

Many Greeks are finding a new sense of national pride in Tsipras' hard stance towards "foreign interests", but where will he find the money to run the country or pay its debts?

Merkel and Macron split over Weber presidency

EU heads of government have their first face-to-faces discussions after the European elections on who should lead the EU commission. They are unlikely to decide quickly - with the parliament also divided over the candidates.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  2. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  3. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  4. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  5. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  6. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  7. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  8. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us