Athens, Jan 31 (IANS) Greece was headed for a collision with its lenders, with the government announcing its intention to shun the auditors of the European Union (EU)–European Central Bank (ECB)–International Monetary Fund (IMF) “troika”.
Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, said after talks with the head of the Eurogroup of EU finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, that the government would not pursue further negotiations with the body of technocrats that has regularly descended on the country to monitor its economy, according to report in The Guardian Friday.
Varoufakis also said that the new government in Greece would not be rowing back on the election-winning pledge, by asking for an extension to the country’s 240 billion euro (nearly $271 billion) bailout programme.
“This platform enabled us to win the confidence of the Greek people,” Varoufakis said, insisting that the logic of austerity was repudiated by voters with the far-left Syriza party storming to victory in Sunday’s election.
Greece has lost more than a quarter of its GDP in the the worst slump in modern times, as a result of consecutive waves of budget cuts and tax rises enforced at the behest of creditors.
“Our first action as a government will not be to reject the rationale of questioning this programme through a request to extend it,” quipped the Greek finance minister.
Varoufakis and the new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, are adamant that the government will deal only with individual institutions and on a minister-to-minister basis within the EU and have refused to engage with the representatives of the country’s hated “troika” of lenders comprising the EU, ECB and IMF.
“We respect institutions, but we don’t plan to cooperate with that committee,” he said, referring to the auditors who monitor the Greek economy on behalf of the three lenders.
An internationally renowned economist, Varoufakis has been an outspoken critic of the austerity measures demanded in exchange for the aid that has bolstered Greece since its economic meltdown.
However, the Eurogroup president and Dutch Finance Minister, Dijsselbloem, also held his ground Friday saying that it was imperative that Athens did not lose the headway that has been achieved.
He reiterated that the creditor group expected Greece to honour the terms of its existing bailout accords.
“I realise the Greek people have gone through a lot. However, a lot of progress has been made and it is important not to lose that progress,” he said, adding, “…It is of utmost importance that Greece remains on the path of economic recovery. Taking unilateral steps or ignoring previous agreements is not the way forward.”
The Syriza party fell short of an overall majority, but has formed a coalition government with rightwing populists who are also opposed to austerity measures. The party has made debt reduction and renegotiation of the bailout agreement a priority.
Dijsselbloem ruled out an international conference to discuss ways of reducing Greece’s 320 billion euro (nearly $362 billion) debt pile, and said that the Eurogroup of EU finance ministers “is that conference”.