Negotiations on an 85 billion euro bailout deal between Greece and its creditors reached this week underwent a “sea change” after combative finance minister Yanis Varoufakis was removed from the talks, EU sources said on Wednesday.
The deal, which will provide Greece with the new money needed to prevent financial meltdown and keep it from crashing out of the single currency, was reached after months of often bad-tempered talks with international lenders.
The mood apparently changed after the appointment of Euclid Tsakolotos as finance minister in place of Varoufakis early last month.
“There was a sea change in the negotiations with the Greek authorities in recent weeks,” one of the EU sources said.
“The new Greek finance minister has an absolutely different attitude in the talks than the previous one. Talks were very constructive,” the source said.
Varoufakis, a charismatic motorbike-riding academic who described himself as an “erratic Marxist”, was feted as a political rock star when he took the finance portfolio after the left-wing Syriza party emerged victorious from an election in January.
But as the debt talks dragged on the confrontational Varoufakis lost the confidence of his negotiating partners, irritating German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in particular and accusing Europe of “terrorism” in its attempts to resolve the Greek crisis.
He further riled the Germans, the main contributors to a series of rescue packages for Greece, by saying an outline deal last month was like the Versailles treaty which forced crushing reparations on Germany after World War One and led to the rise of Adolf Hitler.
In a development that prompted widespread shock and disbelief in Greece, Varoufakis confirmed that he had made secret preparations to hack into citizens’ tax codes to create a parallel payment system.
Mild-mannered and professorial, Tsakalotos marked a clear change in style from his leather-jacketed predecessor. One official in Brussels described him last month as: “Much better than Varoufakis. More conciliatory, constructive – and modest.”