There were smiles all round in Paris on Sunday (February 1) as Greece’s new Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis discussed a fresh debt deal with his French counterpart.
Varoufakis is on a diplomatic offensive to persuade sceptical euro zone members to agree – by the end of May – on a plan that does not include Greece accepting further bailout money.
Hosting the meeting, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin, said France was prepared to help Greece straighten out its finances and added:
“We cannot rebuild a country without a fair tax system. We must fight against tax fraud and tax optimisation. We are waging a battle both in Europe and at an international level within the G20. But it is obviously something absolutely necessary for Greece, as well.”
Varoufakis stated that his priority is Europe first and foremost.
“If we sit on the same side of the table and place the problem on the opposite side success is certain in a Europe with so much room for mutual prosperity,” he said. “Today, starting here in Paris, our freshly elected government had the first opportunity to convey to our partners our determination to turn the page in a manner that pursues Europe’s interests first, Greece’s second, France’s second, everybody else’s second.”
It has been a bumpy first week for the new Greek administration. But, for the moment, it is holding steadfastly to its election manifesto of ending the existing bailout arrangement when the February 28 aid deadline expires.
The agreement is between Greece and the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund ‘troika’. New Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants to negotiate a 50 percent reduction of Greece’s unmanageable public debt burden which stands at more than 175 percent of its output.
In the meantime, the government intends to settle a bridging deal with the troika.
The next stop for Varoufakis will be a meeting with his British counterpart George Osborne in London on Monday (February 2). A day later, he will head to Rome.