Greece’s finance minister has struck a more conciliatory tone than usual after confidential talks with his German counterpart. Varoufakis urged his fellow politicians to stop trading accusations and resolve the crisis.
Calling Monday’s meeting “very helpful,” Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis struck a softer tone than usual concerning his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schäuble.
Both ministers agreed on confidentiality ahead of the talks in Berlin, but a spokesman for Germany’s finance ministry also said that the talks had been “open and constructive,” taking place “in a friendly atmosphere.”
Varoufakis and Schäuble have often been portrayed effectively as opponents in Greece’s protracted talks with its international creditors over loans in exchange for economic reforms – Varoufakis seeking a milder arrangement for Athens, Schäuble pushing for a plan unlikely to leave Germany and others footing any eventual bill.
Varoufakis and Schäuble met shortly before US President Barack Obama – at the G7 summit further south in Bavaria – urged Greek leaders to make “tough decisions” to fix their fiscal problems, saying it would be “good in the long term.”
The Greek finance minister’s message was similar, albeit without references to Athens making the concessions.
“It’s a duty for us politicians to try and find an agreement. This is absolutely essential for the European Union,” Varoufakis said. “It is time to stop pointing fingers at one another and it is time that we do our job… to come to an agreement,” the finance minister said.
A new ‘Speech of Hope’
In an interview with German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, however, Varoufakis criticized the latest proposal offered by Athens’ creditors.
“You only make such a proposal if you actually don’t want to reach an agreement at all,” he said in excerpts of the interview published on Monday. Varoufakis also reiterated his government’s call for debt restructuring, considering how painful austerity has been for ordinary Greeks.
On Sunday, Varoufakis suggested German Chancellor Angela Merkel give his country a “Speech of Hope,” signaling the end of austerity, similar to the one given by James F. Byrnes, then US Secretary of State, to Germany following the end of World War II.
Varoufakis was scheduled to continue his Berlin trip on Monday by participating in a public debate on Greece’s debt crisis, with panelists including Reiner Hoffmann, head of the DGB, Germany’s umbrella organization for trade unions.
es/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)