Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Greek Finance Minister Fast tracks Paris talks

Published:Monday | February 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis met his French counterpart Michel Sapin in Paris yesterday, a day earlier than planned, as Greece's new left-wing leaders tried to drum up support for their rejection of austerity policies. Varoufakis's office on Saturday announced that he would be arriving in Paris the same day for meetings with French ministers yesterday.

Sapin's office later confirmed that the ministers would meet at 5 p.m. local time and make a statement one and a half hours later.

An informal meeting with French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron would also take place, officials said.

Varoufakis, who last Friday declared that Greece would not negotiate with the "troika" of the EU Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is also to visit Italy, seen as a possible ally in its efforts to be let off repayment of part of its €7 billion remaining debt.

Newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to meet Italy's Matteo Renzi tomorrow and French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday.

Meanwhile tens of thousands of Spaniards turned out for a "march for change" in Madrid called by Podemos, a recently formed left-wing party similar to Tsipras's Syriza.

Tsipras, who last Friday quipped that he would "be original and keep my promises", has promised to reemploy thousands of sacked public-sector workers, raise the minimum wage and stop a troika-enforced privatisation programme.

But the Portuguese government, which has been putting through austerity policies, has refused to back the new Greek government, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho opposing any "conference that may be proposed so as to cancel or restructure the debt in calling for solidarity of the European people".

The leaders of Europe's strongest economy, Germany, are vehemently opposed to debt restructuring.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday ruled out any such move and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble declared that Berlin is "averse to blackmail".