Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has hit back at suggestions that eurogroup talks about a new finance package for his country have stalled amid frustrations at his handling of negotiations.
“I believe we are close to an agreement,” he told euronews’ Efi Koutsokosta. “The distance from the agreement is inversely related – in proportion to the smoke and fire and brimstone that you get.”
Varufakis denied suggestions that personal relations between him and the other finance ministers had deteriorated irreparably. Bloomberg news reported today that ministers had referred to Varoufakis as a “time-waster” a “gambler” and an “amateur”, but the former economics professor insisted the situation was very different.
“There is a major disconnect between what you hear in the press and the actual reality on the ground. We are adults and colleagues, we respect and even like each other,” he told euronews. He did admit, however to “a certain intensity at times regarding the negotiations” and predicted that the talks might have to “reach the very last moment before a mutually beneficial outcome emerges from a conflicting narrative”.
The talks are aimed at securing a new round of funding to allow Greece to meet its obligations to pay debtors in the coming weeks but progress has been hampered by rows over how far the government in Athens is prepared to go in implementing economic reforms. Many economists predict that an agreement will be too difficult to reach and the country could default on some of these payments. Varoufakis admitted that the possibility of such a situation (known as plan B) had been raised by one of his colleagues, believed to have been the Slovenian finance minister, during the talks.
“My immediate response was to say there is no such plan B, there cannot be such plan B, and any mention of a plan B is profoundly anti-European and in the end that’s against the grain of the interests of that particular country represented by that particular colleague,” he said.
Greece’s liquidity problems were recently highlighted by Varoufakis himself in Washington. In Riga the head of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem echoed those thoughts, saying liquidity was “becoming more and more a problem for the Greek government”.