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Yanis Varoufakis
Image: Reuters/E.Vidal

Varoufakis: 'Bloodletting' of Greece must stop

February 26, 2015

As Greece's PM attempts to temper simmering discontent within his party, his German creditors debate whether they can trust Athens to repay its debts. Yanis Varoufakis condemned Greece's treatment as "bloodletting."


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held a marathon 11-hour closed-door session with lawmakers from his left-wing Syriza party on Wednesday as he tried to win over hardliners who think his administration has caved to creditors.

Tsipras was elected last month on the promise to repeal bailout austerity measures, but a list of reforms accepted by Greece's creditors at the European Central Bank (ECB), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Eurozone on Tuesday proposed not rolling back the privatizations of government firms. That's something Syriza promised to do during its election campaign.

Energy and Environment Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, one such party hardliner, has repeated that he will not go ahead with privatizations, which were part of initial requirements for the 240 billion euro ($272 billion) bailout.

Stop 'selling off the family silver'

Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's minister of finance, told Greek radio on Wednesday that the list of policy measures he sent to Brussels to win a four-month extension of the bailout program contained "constructive ambiguity" on the issue of privatizations.

He summed up the government's position on the matter: "The sell-off of family silver at rock-bottom prices and in a way that doesn't lead to development for the economy must stop."

Varoufakis had stronger words for the original terms of the bailout as stipulated by the country's creditors in an interview with French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Wednesday's issue of the magazine, which contains the interview with Varoufakis, is the first regular issue since a bloody rampage at their offices in January.

Charlie Hebdo at newsstands
The new issue of Charlie Hebdo, featuring the Varoufakis interview, hit news stands in France on WednesdayImage: Reuters/E. Gaillard

"During the Middle Ages, 'doctors' prescribed bloodletting, which often caused the patient's health to deteriorate, to which the 'doctor' responded with other bloodlettings," Varoufakis was quoted as saying.

"That's the type of 'reasoning' that today perfectly illustrates Europe's attitude: the more austerity fails, the more it is prescribed."

If European leaders were to "shoot down" Greece's anti-austerity government, they would drive the country into the arms of racists and nationalists, he also warned in the interview.

Doubts as to Athens' trustworthiness

Greece's wavering on the privatization measures has sparked concern among officials in Germany, one of Athens' biggest creditors. The ruling parties are holding a special meeting in Berlin on Thursday morning on the subject. It comes before a parliamentary vote on Friday that would approve the extension of Greece's bailout program if passed.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said it was "not easy" for him to let Greece have the extension, considering how there was "much doubt in Germany" as to whether Athens will pay back the more than 40 billion euros it owes Berlin. Greece's proposed reforms must be "substantiated with numbers," Schäuble told German media on Wednesday, otherwise they "don't count."

Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "There is still a lot of work ahead of us."

She struck a more positive note than Schäuble, however, by saying she believes her government and its Greek counterpart had found a good starting point for negotiations.

es/gsw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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