Telephone lines between Athens and several European capitals went on fire on Saturday with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis calling around to calm down lenders and EU-partners, win allies for the Greek positions and assure that Greece was not in collision course with its creditors. Both the PM and the FinMin will launch a marathon consultations race with their European counterparts.
In an e-mail statement to Bloomberg, Tsipras wrote about his intentions:
“The deliberation with our European partners has just begun. Despite the fact that there are differences in perspective, I am absolutely confident that we will soon manage to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, both for Greece and for Europe as a whole.
No side is seeking conflict and it has never been our intention to act unilaterally on the Greek debt.
My obligation to respect the clear mandate of the Greek people with respect to ending the policies of austerity and returning to a growth agenda in no way entails that we will not fulfill our loan obligations to the ECB or the IMF.”
Tsipras went on to explain that the government wants to create its own reform program, which would focus on tackling “tax evasion, corruption and clientelistic policies.” He also committed to maintaining “primary balanced budgets.”
“I am convinced that an agreement on these lines will be acceptable to our partners, because our common interest is the economic stability and recovery for our common home, Europe. (Bloomberg)
The meeting between Varoufakis and Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Friday had ended “ugly” with the obviously angry Dutch finance minister to hastily leave the press conference hall. Friday evening the economic team of the Greek government held an extraordinary meeting under PM Tsipras, then phone calls and flights booking started.
PM Alexis Tsipras spoke with ECB head, Mario Draghi, Italian PM Matteo Renzi, EP president Martin Schulz and Jeroen Dijseelbloem. The Dutch FinMin allegedly told Greek PM that after the tension on Firday, he would not want to raise the impression that negotiations would not proceed.
Schulz reportedly called Tsipras on Friday after the dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Strasbourg. EP President told Greek PM that Merkel and Hollande “wait for actions so that negotiations will continue and there is an agreement.” [I suppose Schulz was refereeing to the outstanding Troika-Greece negotiations on program review.]
FinMin Yanis Varoufakis contacted his counterparts but also his American one Jack Lew. The conversation between Varoufakis and Lew was published on the website of the US Finance Ministry however not the content. According to Washington correspondent of private Mega TV, “Varoufakis asked the support and the intervention of the Americans so that the Europeans change their attitude ahead of the negotiations with the official creditors.”
The United States are apparently eager to interfere in the EU-Greece differences and White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday
“We’re going to continue to work closely with the European Union, and that means engaging with the new political leaders in Greece to try to resolve these differences and get Greece and Europe and the global economy back on a path to growth and prosperity,» spokesman Josh Earnest said at a briefing.
Tsipras, Varoufakis scheduled meetings with Europeans
PM Tsipras and FinMin Varoufakis on will hit the road and hold intensive talks with their European counterparts, seeking allies for the Greek positions. PM Tsipras asks for more time and he reportedly assured his European partners that he would not proceed to a unilateral write-off of the debt, Greke media report Sunday.
The FinMin left Athens already on Saturday for a meeting with his French Michel Sapin was accelerated for today Sunday from Monday. The two will hold a joint press conference this afternoon in Paris at 6:30 GR pm/ 7:30 FR pm.
From there he will fly to London to meet with FinMin George Osborne on Monday but also officials from the City. On Tuesday, the Greek FinMin will be in Rome for a meeting with Pier Carlo Padoan.
PM Tsipras schedule:
2. Feb: Cyprus – Nicosia meeting with President Nikos Anastasiades
3. Feb: Italy – Rome meeting Matteo Renzi
4. Feb: Belgium – Brussels meeting with EC President Jean-Claude Juncker
5. Feb: France – Paris meeting with Francois Hollande (meeting was scheduled before Friday)
Time is running, and it seems that they all want European Union leaders’ summit is scheduled for February 12th 2015.