The new left-wing Greek government has said that it will not cooperate with the ‘troika’ of international lenders, and does not plan to seek an extension for its aid package which is set to expire at the end of February.
Without the aid, Greek banks could face being shut off from European Central Bank funding.
Rejecting cooperation with the troika from the EU and IMF, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he would rather negotiate the debt in direct talks with eurozone leaders.
“This position enabled us to win the trust of the Greek people,” Varoufakis said Friday during a joint press conference with Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the eurozone finance ministers’ group.
“Our first action as a government will not be to reject the rationale of questioning this program through a request to extend it,” Varoufakis said. “We respect institutions but we don’t plan to cooperate with that committee.”
The meeting between Varoufakis and Dijsselbloem is to lay the groundwork for visits by newly-elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the finance minister to London, Paris, and Rome next week. The new Greek leadership has voiced its intention to attempt to loosen the terms of the massive €240 billion (US$271 billion) bailout.
The new government has fueled panic among creditors and investors by promising to freeze privatizations and re-hire state workers, in addition to rolling back other reforms that were mandated by the bailout.
Varoufakis said he had told Dijsselbloem that although Athens plans to make the economy more competitive and balance its budgets, the country refuses to accept deflation and non-viable debt.
Dijsselbloem, meanwhile, warned Greece against taking unilateral measures and cautioned the new finance minister against rolling back progress.
Germany, Greece’s biggest lender, has said it will not consider writing off the country’s debt. Berlin expects Greece to implement structural reform in exchange for support.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said Berlin is not willing to radically renegotiate current agreements.
“We’re prepared for any discussions at any time but the basis can’t be changed,” he said. “Beyond that, it is hard to blackmail us.”