The Huffington Post UK | By Jessica Elgot
Posted: 02/02/2015 08:21
One rides a 1300 CC Yamaha motorbike, gets mobbed for selfies, writes a cutting-edge blog and calls Greece’s bailout terms “fiscal waterboarding” .
The other is George Osborne. Not, at first glance, a pair likely to have that much in common.
But Greece’s new anti-austerity finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is heading to London (flying economy class) on Monday for talks with the Chancellor as he attempts to build support across the European Union for a new deal for the struggling nation.
Syriza’s Varoufakis has secured backing from France for his country’s bid to renegotiate its debt during discussions in Paris yesterday, where he began a whistle-stop tour, meeting European counterparts.
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“I welcome this opportunity, so soon after the Greek election, to discuss face to face with Yanis Varoufakis the stability of the European economy and how to boost its growth,” Osborne said in a short statement prior to the meeting.
But Varoufakis, an academic economist who has worked in universities in Britain, Greece, Australia and the US, may have a job on his hands. Prime Minister David Cameron initially responded to Syriza’s election victory by warning it would increase “economic uncertainty across Europe” but later offered the new leader UK help on tax collection.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear she will not easily allow Greece’s debts to be cancelled, insisting substantial cuts have already been made.
However, Syriza’s Tsipras has been buoyed by strong support from US President Barack Obama, who told the young new prime minister he backed his mission to end austerity politics.
“The United States will stand to help Greek government to escape the politics of austerity,” the US President told Tsipras in a phone call, adding that “Europe must escape the austerity policies, something that the USA did, and adopt a strong development agenda.”
He also advised Tsipras “to take a rest after the elections campaign because you’ll need strength later,” and quipping that “I also started young, but now my hair has turned grey.”
Varoufakis, who once studied at the University of Essex, has ruled out a new wave of bail-out support, insisting his government was focused on ending the “addiction” that has seen Greece “craving the next dose”.
Greece’s new prime minister Alexis Tsipras has demanded a renegotiation of Greece’s £179 billion international bailout deal.
“The Greek state has a future, but what we won’t accept as a future is the self-perpetuating crisis of deflation and unsustainable debt,” Varoufakis has said.
Left Unity, the political party set up by film director Ken Loach, have planned a welcome rally for Varoufakis outside Downing Street, with a banner reading “Greece, we support you”.
The party’s Andrew Burgin said: “We’ve come to welcome Yanis Varoufakis to London – and to see him wipe that smile off George Osborne’s face. The burden of austerity must be lifted from the Greek people. We stand with them: they are fighting for us all. After so many years of Osborne’s austerity Britain and across Europe, finally a government has taken power who will tell him ‘no more’.”