Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis was yesterday branded ‘a time-waster, a gambler and an amateur’ during furious exchanges with his European counterparts.
In private talks that were described as a ‘hammering’ for Greece in the Latvian capital of Riga, eurozone finance ministers hurled abuse at Varoufakis, pictured, amid warnings that a Greek exit from the single currency is now a ‘serious’ option.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chairman of the Eurogroup of treasury chiefs, could barely contain his anger at the failure by Athens to deliver the economic reforms required to secure further emergency funding to keep Greece afloat.
Greece desperately needs the next tranche of its bailout to survive – worth around £5.2billion – but is at loggerheads with Europe and the International Monetary Fund over what is required to release the funds.
‘A comprehensive and detailed list of reforms is needed,’ said Dijsselbloem. ‘We are all aware that time is running out. Too much time has been lost. The responsibility lies mainly on the side of the Greek authorities.’
Varoufakis insisted that the two sides have come ‘much closer together’ and that Athens is ready to make ‘big compromises’ to secure the funding required to stave off bankruptcy. But Dijsselbloem said there are still ‘big, big problems to be solved’. Malta’s finance minister Edward Scicluna said: ‘I would describe today’s meeting as a complete breakdown in communication with Greece.’
Manfred Weber, an ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel, said: ‘Today it’s the case that the entire eurozone stands against Greece. There are more serious discussions about Grexit.’
According to Bloomberg, finance chiefs at the Eurogroup meeting in Riga said Varoufakis’s handling of the situation was ‘irresponsible’ and accused him of being ‘a time-waster, a gambler and an amateur’. If Greece does not sign up to painful reforms in order to secure fresh funding, it may not be able to repay the IMF the £720million it owes next month. Failure to repay the money would lead to default – and could force Greece out of the euro.
Dijsselbloem said finance ministers would review progress again on May 11 – a day before the first payment to the IMF is due.
Chancellor George Osborne last week warned May is ‘crunch’ time for Greece, and added that the deepening crisis poses the biggest threat to the global economy.
European economics commissioner Pierre Moscovici said that despite some progress in recent days an agreement with Athens remains a long way off.
‘Our message is very clear,’ he said. ‘We need to accelerate, we need to accelerate from today. There is no other choice if we want to reach the goal that everyone shares, which is a stable, prosperous Greece anchored in the eurozone.’