On Friday, Greece’s embattled FinMin Yanis Varoufakis added to his highlight reel of “kerfuffles” when he put on a performance at the negotiating table in Riga that prompted his peers to describe him as an amateurish time-wasting, gambler. As talks with creditors drag on under the constant threat of a Greek default and a disorderly euro exit, it appears Varoufakis’ antics may have finally gone too far, for as Reuters reports, PM Tsipras looks to have effectively replaced the FinMin as lead negotiator. Here’s more:
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday reshuffled his team handling talks with European and IMF lenders, after his finance minister was sharply criticized for his performance at a euro zone meeting last week…
Tsipras and senior aides expressed support for Yanis Varoufakis and agreed the finance minister would supervise a new team negotiating a reforms deal with lenders, but appointed deputy Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos as coordinator of the group, a government official said.
The appointment suggested Tsakalatos, an Oxford-educated economist and professor who is soft-spoken and well-liked by officials representing creditors, would have a more active role in face-to-face talks from now on.
And here are more details via Bloomberg:
Greek representative at Euro Working Group George Chouliarakis will be responsible for Greek delegation in Brussels Group meetings.
General secretary of Greek govt Spyros Sagias will assume coordination of technical work in Athens.
General secretary of finance ministry Nikos Theoharakis will focus on drafting a growth plan for Greek economy, which will be basis for June agreement with creditors.
The move comes on the heels of reports that eurozone negotiators had finally become so exhausted with Varoufakis that they had sought to bypass him altogether after the Greek FinMin apparently adopted a stance so contentious on Friday that talks never even progressed to the point where divisions over reforms could be discussed. Meanwhile, Varoufakis was busy playing the martyr, tweeting out FDR quotes and having dinner by himself. Here’s FT:
Greece’s dire financial position is forcing eurozone authorities to look beyond
Mr Varoufakis to Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, much like in February when Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the eurogroup, brokered an extension of the current bailout programme.
According to two eurozone officials, Mr Dijsselbloem phoned Mr Tsipras from Riga in an effort to mend fences after Friday’s feisty eurogroup meeting, where Mr Varoufakis was rounded on by his eurozone colleagues.
In a sign that Mr Varoufakis’s combative approach is prompting concern in Greece as well, a senior Athens official said the Riga meeting was likely to lead to him being sidelined as Mr Tsipras and his deputy Yannis Dragasakis take a more hands-on role…
Mr Varoufakis shrugged off criticism from his eurozone colleagues, comparing his situation to that of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he pushed through the New Deal. “They are unanimous in their hatred for me and I welcome their hatred,” he tweeted.
Some eurozone and Greek officials believe divisions between Mr Varoufakis and Mr Tsipras are deepening and that a concerted appeal to the prime minister could still produce a deal by late May, the time many feel an agreement has to be reached if any aid disbursement can be made before the current bailout expires at the end of June.
“There is an element of cognitive dissonance here,” said one official involved in the talks. “Varoufakis does not comprehend that at the political level one just does not negotiate every item. Other people do that.”
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And when it comes to dinner plans, Varoufakis was not interested in joining his fellow European officials at the gala...
As the buses carrying European finance ministers left for a gala dinner in the Latvian capital on Friday night, one of the party hung back at the hotel and then wandered off alone into the dusk.
...because he does not like "boring dinners."
We suppose that's a good thing, because it now appears he'll be invited to a lot less of them.