Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, was at pains to point out last night that “no one has the right to play games with the future of the euro”. His comments came after a meeting of the Eurogroup Finance Ministers failed to produce agreement over an extension to Greece´s bailout programme.
While Mr Varoufakis was keen to avoid the notion of “games” being played by either side, the unanimous agreement from finance ministers- that Greece would have to ask for a bailout extension if any further talks are to take place-has placed the ball firmly back in Athens´court.
The head of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said in an earlier press conference that there was disappointment amongst the members “that there was no firm agreement” and that “no common ground” had been found. He went on to state that any further negotiations with Greece needed to occur within the parameters of an extension to the current bailout programme, a suggestion later rejected by Mr Varoufakis.
Mr Varoufakis stated that Greece “could not agree to the successful implementation of the current programme, because it has been shown that the current programme cannot be successful.”
Mr Dijsselbloem noted that while Mr Varoufakis had been advocating “a bridge programme” to facilitate negotiations, an extension of the bailout was effectively the same thing. Mr Varoufakis countered that argument by stating that the Greek Government would not sign up to the new programme without first agreeing the exact scope of any new agreement.
Mr Varoufakis said that Greece had been offered assurances that “there was room for flexibility within the current programme”, a statement he described as “nebulous.”
There had been rumours of tension between Mr Varoufakis and Mr Dijsselbloem throughout the day, which were given credence when Mr Varoufakis confirmed he had been close to agreement with Pierre Moscovici about a possible bailout extension. Mr Varoufakis claimed the Greek government wanted assurances that any agreement would leave certain social programmes untouched for the duration of any extended programme. Agreement could not be reached upon the detail, at which point Mr Dijsselbloem drafted a statement which the Greek delegation rejected out of hand.
Mr Varoufakis confidently predicted that the parties would come to a “mutually beneficial agreement” within 48 hours, claiming that “nothing ever good came from the language of ultimatums.”
Time is of the essence.