​Greek, German finance ministers ‘didn’t even agree to disagree’

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble (L) address a news conference following talks at the finance ministry in Berlin February 5, 2015.(Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch)
Following talks with his German counterpart, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has made it clear that the two countries are no closer to solving Greece’s financial crisis, noting that ministers did not even “agree to disagree.”

“We did not reach agreement because it was never on the cards that we would. We agreed to enter into deliberations as partners with the orientation of a joint solution to European problems that’s going to put the interests of Europe at the helm,” he said Thursday during a joint press conference with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble.

While promising that Greece would unleash a “frenzy of reasonableness” in tackling the crisis, he urged Germany to meet his country halfway and called on Schauble to back a three-month bridging loan. A bridging loan would give Greece time “to come to an agreement” with its European partners.

In his opening remarks, the German minister admitted that the two “weren’t in full agreement,” but described their two-hour meeting as “a frank and intensive exchange.” He added that they “agreed to disagree,” only to later be contradicted by Varoufakis who said that the pair had not even managed that much.

Schauble was blunt in expressing his doubts about the direction the newly elected left-wing Syriza party will take Greece.

“I am somewhat skeptical with regard to some of the measures announced by Greece. Some measures do not exactly go in the direction we wish to see,” he said. “Greece could not expect further debt relief. We went as far as we could last time. We can only provide help for people to help themselves.”

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.(Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch)

The minister said that Greece’s financing program must continue to be led by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the Central Bank – the troika of debt collectors who ordained harsh austerity measures in return for the €240 billion loan in 2010.

Schauble noted that Germany prioritizes Europe and the voters of all European countries.

“Yes we must respect Greek voters, but we must also respect the voters of other European countries,” he said.

Varoufakis praised his counterpart’s commitment to European unity, and maintained Greece’s allegiance to the EU as well.

“You can expect proposals that are aimed not at promoting the interests of the average Greek but at promoting the interests of the average European.”

“These are early days, but I’m sure that our policies will help to solidify Europe and provide a solution,” he said underscoring Syriza’s ability to work within the framework of a euro-centric program.

He added that a large portion of reforms agreed to by the last Greek government and the troika were appropriate, but that loan repayments must come before interest payments.