PARIS — Feb 1, 2015
By SYLVIE CORBET
France’s Socialist government offered support Sunday for Greece’s efforts to renegotiate debt for its huge bailout plan, amid renewed fears about Europe’s economic stability.
The backing was a victory for Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, striking a more conciliatory tone as he seeks new conditions on debt from creditors who rescued Greece’s economy to save the shared euro currency. Worries have mounted that Greece’s new far left government might not pay back its debts.
Varoufakis is also visiting London and Rome — and in a sign that his government may be trying to avoid a collision course with key creditors, he said Sunday that he would visit Berlin and Frankfurt as well. The German government has been particularly angry at the new Greek government’s position and bluntly rejected suggestions that Greece should be forgiven part of its rescue loans.
Varoufakis insisted that Greece wants to pay the money back, but said he wants new terms and new negotiating partners, arguing that it’s not worth discussing with the technocrats from the so-called “troika” of creditors who set the strict terms for Greece’s rescue.
France’s Socialist leadership, whose president has campaigned against austerity, presented itself Sunday as a possible “link” between Greece and creditors.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin insisted his country wouldn’t support canceling the debt, but offered backing for a new timeframe or terms.
“France is more than prepared to support Greece,” Sapin said after meeting Varoufakis, saying Greece’s efforts to renegotiate were “legitimate.” Sapin urged a “new contract between Greece and its partners.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his new government have worried financial markets and German and other European officials by pushing to scrap painful budget cuts and rethinking the debt. Tsipras sought to calm worries Saturday after days of increasingly heated discussions, and he too is heading to European capitals for talks in the coming days.
Greek government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis said Sunday’s meeting in Paris “proves that the positions of the Greek government are now finding fertile ground in Europe.”
Varoufakis announced that he has retained financial consultants Lazard as advisers to the Finance Ministry on public debt and fiscal management.
Demetris Nellas and Elena Becatoros in Athens, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.