Varoufakis looking for plan to bridge gap after Schaeuble talks

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis pledged on Thursday to present to the next Eurogroup a roadmap that will show how Greece could transition from its current bailout to a new agreement, which he believes can be agreed by the end of May.

Varoufakis made the pledge at a meeting with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin on Thursday. The two ministers appeared far apart on their views about how Greece’s relationship with its lenders should evolve. Schaeuble insisted that Athens should complete its current bailout and continue working with the troika.

The Greek finance minister said the government does not want to borrow more money but needs some time that would allow it to negotiate with its eurozone partners to reach a new “contract.”

“We didn’t discuss Greece’s debt schedule for repayments, we didn’t discuss a haircut,” said Varoufakis, who insisted that the country would avoid a default. “We set the scene for deliberations that will lead to an approach which will put an end to this seemingly never-ending crisis.”

Varoufakis also made reference to the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece during the economic crisis and called on Germany, with its own haunting experience of Nazism, to help combat this threat.

“When I return home tonight I shall find myself in a parliament in which the third-largest party is not a neo-Nazi party, it is a Nazi party,” he said. “We need the people of Germany on our side. We need the people of Germany to help us in the struggle against misanthropy.”

However, Schaeuble insisted that Greece needs to stick with the reforms agreed by the previous government, regardless of the fact that the new coalition has a mandate to pursue a different agenda.

“I told my colleague that we respect the Greek electorate’s will but that in every European Union member state the electoral will of voters in all other countries also has to be respected,” Schaeuble said. “The reasons for the difficult path that Greece must follow lie in Greece, not in Europe.”

The German finance minister also said that he was not in favor of some of the government’s attempts to roll back previous reforms.

“I couldn’t hide my skepticism in the conversation that some measures announced by the new government don’t necessarily go in the right direction in our opinion,” he said.

Sources told Kathimerini that Berlin is adamant that the International Monetary Fund needs to maintain a monitoring role in Greece. IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday that a meeting between Varoufakis and Fund official Poul Thomsen over the weekend had not involved a detailed discussion and that the Washington-based organization is waiting for the Greek government to present its positions.

Addressing coalition MPs in Athens for the first time since the January 25 elections, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras sought to outline the strategy his government will follow in negotiations with the country’s creditors.

“Greek democracy doesn’t want to blackmail or threaten anyone,” he said. “It also won’t be threatened by anyone, because democracy in Europe cannot be blackmailed,” he added.

The premier reiterated his intention to “negotiate hard” and to “put a definitive end to the troika and its policies.”

He stressed that his government would honor its pre-election commitments, noting that it was a duty to “not allow citizens to be cheated again.” “We are a sovereign state, we have a democracy, we have an agreement with our people and we will honor it,” he said.

As for the prospect of an agreement with creditors, Tsipras said his government had presented its proposals and was awaiting those of its partners. He added that the new Greek government respected European Union rules stipulating balanced budgets, noting however that “austerity is not an EU founding principle.”

The government guaranteed the country’s “course in Europe” and deposits in banks which are “absolutely safe,” he added.