German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has once again sparked displeasure in Athens, insisting that the unpopular “Troika” of creditors will be negotiating with the Greek government over the country’s bailout package extension, despite the latter’s objection on the matter. Eurozone’s hardline group leader Schaeuble, responded in this way to claims expressed by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis who argued that Athens would deal separately with its European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) partners’ representatives when bailout talks begin tomorrow.
“Well, then his ideas have to be corrected,” the German Finance Minister told journalists in an ironic tone, just 24 hours after the single currency Finance Ministers agreed to begin talks that could lead to liquidity injections for Athens and an extension of its current bailout beyond June, as agreed on the February 20 Eurogroup. “The institutions will do that together,” Schaeuble strictly declared.
Earlier on Monday, the Greek government has agreed with its Eurozone partners that the talks regarding the future of its bailout program will begin tomorrow in Brussels, accompanied by a visit of EC/ECB/IMF officials to Athens.
On his behalf, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is trying to access European funding while remaining committed to his party’s anti-austerity agenda that secured leftist SYRIZA a historic victory in the January 25 snap elections. He has already taken some steps back from his pre-election rhetoric, dropping demands for a Greek debt write-off and plans to halt privatizations, while accepting that no “bridge financing” can be achieved without implementing the agreements with the country’s creditors.
In return, what he got from the February 20 critical Eurogroup has a semiological rather than a practical impact, as the EC/ECB/IMF mechanism ceases to be labeled as the “Troika,” which gained negative publicity among Greeks, although these institutions are still the ones to oversee the Greek extended loan agreement progress. “The Troika is a cabal of technocrats that used to arrive in Athens and enter the Ministries with a kind of power play that smacked of a colonial attitude,” the Greek Finance Minister said in a press conference after yesterday’s meeting. “That practice is finished. We shall endeavor to do whatever it takes to provide the institutions with whatever information they need,” he explained.
Thus, Schaeuble’s latest statements are seen as provocative in Athens, putting in risk the agreements reached in consecutive Eurogroup meetings regarding the procedure to be followed in the negotiations until the international creditors approve Greece’s program and unlock cash flow to Athens.
Earlier today, ECB President Mario Draghi also urged the Greek government to allow the institution representatives, formerly known as the “Troika,” to return to Athens before it is too late.
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