Wednesday, March 18, 2015

'Varoufakis problem' weighs on Greek debt talks

March 18, 2015

With incendiary interviews, an undiplomatic demeanor, a celebrity photo shoot and an obscene finger gesture, Yanis Varoufakis is becoming part of Greece's debt problem rather than the solution, or so his euro zone partners believe.

Many Greeks regard their new finance minister as a breath of fresh air, a man who has told his colleagues in the Eurogroup a few home truths about the futility of forcing austerity policies on an economy that has endured a depression for five years.

But his readiness to break the conventions of European discourse has caused consternation, and not just among the buttoned-up finance chiefs and bureaucrats who populate the Eurogroup.

The 53-year-old academic economist, who calls himself an "erratic Marxist", roared to prominence when the leftist Syriza party won an election in January and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras chose him as finance minister.

Less than two months into the job, he has alienated many interlocutors in Berlin, Brussels and Frankfurt, and risks becoming a liability as Greece struggles to avert bankruptcy and stay in the euro zone.


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