Yanis Varoufakis implies Ireland was an “energetic enemy” of Greece
Former Greek finance minister reveals all in New Statesman interview
Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images
Yanis Varoufakis, the motorbike-riding, Noonan-riling, tie-eschewing former Greek finance minister gave an interesting interview published in yesterday’s edition of the New Statesman, the left-of-centre British magazine.
It was full of his usual complaints about the creditor powers that held the Greek government’s feet to the fire over the weekend in return for a bailout. From an Irish perspective, however, the interview was more interesting for his observations about the attitude of various European nations to Greece’s plight.
Varoufakis complained that, when he was part of the Greek negotiating team, shortly after Syriza’s election victory six months ago, he tried to talk economics to the other finance ministers at eurogroup meetings. It “didn’t go down well” with his European peers, who displayed “point-blank refusal” to ease Greece’s debts.
“You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on, to make sure it’s logically coherent, and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply . . .” said Varoufakis.
He then gave an insight into which countries had been sympathetic to Greece’s debt woes – and which hadn’t. The Germans, obviously, were the villains of his piece, while International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde was sympathetic “behind closed doors”.
The interviewer then extracted from an apparently reluctant Varoufakis that those governments which might have been expected to be the most sympathetic towards Greece were actually, in his words, its “most energetic enemies”. Varoufakis said the “greatest nightmare” of countries with high debts – the interviewer specified Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy – was for the Syriza government to succeed in easing Greece’s debts.
“Were we to succeed in negotiating a better deal, that would obliterate them politically: they would have to answer to their own people why they didn’t negotiate like we were doing,” said Varoufakis.
Paul Murphy, the acerbic Socialist TD, was last month chided by Taoiseach Enda Kenny for suggesting Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had “stabbed the Greek people in the chest and the Irish people in the back” over this State’s refusal to support a writedown for Greece.
The suggestion was that the Government was terrified a Greek debt writedown would highlight the paucity of Noonan’s negotiating strategy on behalf of Ireland when he sought to burden-share the cost of our bank bailout. In the run-up to an Irish election, the theory went, Noonan did not want the Greeks to succeed where he had failed. In Varoufakis’s view, it seems, the theory is correct.