BUSINESS

Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis says EU deal a 'fig leaf'

Greece's maverick Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis on Friday called a hard-fought EU deal securing a bailout extension "fig leaf" vaguely worded "deliberately" to secure approval by European parliaments.

"We are proud of the level of vagueness" in the agreement signed with eurozone finance ministers this week, Varoufakis told Antenna TV.

The outspoken minister said this was «deliberately done» at the suggestion of Greece's EU creditors "otherwise it would not be approved by (their) parliaments."

The statements were made as lawmakers in Germany -- one of Greece's toughest critics -- voted overwhelmingly in favor of the agreement that gives Athens four months to work out a new reform blueprint.

"The deal was a fig leaf to conclude the Eurogroup and dispense with the fiscal agreement (Greece's bailout deal)," Varoufakis said, according to transcripts of the interview on Antenna's website.

The hard-left Greek government was elected last month on pledges to eliminate austerity and erase most of the country's huge public debt.

In Tuesday's deal, Athens pledged to refrain from one-sided reform rollbacks but received no money to deal with a pressing debt repayment schedule.

In March it must repay over 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to the International Monetary Fund, followed by the same amount in June.

But Varoufakis admitted on Friday that "at this moment the coffers are empty."

In another interview with Bloomberg this week, the minister said he was counting on the European Central Bank to rescue Greece by handing over 1.9 billion euros in Greek bond profits.

"The ECB could simply hand over this money to the IMF," he said.

"I find it very hard to imagine that Europe and the IMF will allow us to trip over what is a relatively small cash problem," he told Bloomberg TV.

[AFP]

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