WASHINGTON, D.C. – US President Barack Obama told a visiting Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis that Greece and international lenders must end an impasse over undone reforms that is blocking the release of critical aid for the cash-strapped country.
In a 12-minute talk on the sidelines of an event at the White House honoring Greece’s Independence Day, Varoufakis also reportedly asked Obama to keep pressing European Union (EU) leaders who are squeezing hard as money is rapidly running out to keep government operations going.
Varoufakis agreed with Obama that all sides need to show flexibility and also highlighted the need to remain focused on the goal and on the process that Greece is involved in with its creditors, Kathimerini said.
Varoufakis, whose combative style has irritated EU leaders, now has promised Greece will compromise, at the same he denounced some of the demands from the troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) and as Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is saying he won’t bend anymore after reneging on a raft of anti-austerity campaign promises.
Despite the amicable chat, Varoufakis admitted that Greece and the troika team is far apart and as Brussels has said there has been virtually no progress in negotiations since the country on Feb. 20 was given a four-month bailout extension while promising to come up with a credible list of reforms, but hasn’t.
Greece is awaiting release of a 7.2-billion loan installment that Tsipras once vowed he wouldn’t take but has been forced to ask for with Greece locked out of the markets, tax revenues plummeting and depositors yanking hundreds of millions of euros a day from banks.
Varoufakis also denounced some of the demanded reforms, such as more cuts to pensions, that the troika wants while simultaneously saying he’s willing to compromise.
Varoufakis said in remarks at the Brookings Institution that his government was elected to “challenge the logic of a program that has clearly failed,” yet which he is willing to deal with.
Greece will not approve more austerity, he said. “We will not sign up to targets we know our economy cannot meet by means of policies that our partners should not wish to impose,” he said.
“We will compromise, we will compromise and we will compromise in order to come to a speedy agreement. But we are not going to end up ‘being’ compromised. This not what we were elected for.”
His comments came as Greece’s borrowing costs soared amid growing fears of a debt default.
Greece is shuffling funds among government agencies and delaying payments to suppliers to repay its loans. Greek officials hope that an agreement can be reached next week, but officials from Germany and other European nations have suggested that’s unlikely.
The event at the White House was also attended by US Vice President Joe Biden and Greek Archbishop Demetrios.
Varoufakis is to meet on April 17 with US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew following a scheduled meeting with ECB President Mario Draghi.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)