Greek finance minister: Europe's negotiators are 'ill-equipped to forge good, hard decisions'

Yanis VaroufakisREUTERS/Francois LenoirGreece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis arrives at an euro zone finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Belgium, May 11, 2015.

The Greek crisis marches on.

In an op-ed in the Irish Times newspaper Saturday, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis laid out his frustrations with European negotiators.

Specifically, he writes that he’s not actually allowed to communicate through written proposals with most of his fellow finance ministers in the Eurogroup negotiations (this may be why he’s started posting them online). And when he speaks, he says, there is silence.

He starts with the Irish finance minister Michael Noonan. Varoufakis says that in a meeting about the Greek crisis this week, Noonan “protested that ministers had not been made privy to the institutions’ proposal to my government before being asked to participate in the discussion.”

Varoufakis then says that he, in turn, was “not allowed to share with Mr Noonan, or indeed with any other finance minister, our written proposals. In fact, as our German counterpart was later to confirm, any written submission to a finance minister by either Greece or the institutions was ‘unacceptable.'” (This is his list of written proposals, which he posted online.)

In the Irish Times, he continues that “it is as if Europe has determined that elected finance ministers are not up to the task of mastering the technical details; a task best left to ‘experts’ representing not voters but the institutions.”

When he made a verbal presentation, then, this happened:

Regrettably, my presentation was met with deafening silence. Excepting Michael Noonan’s apt remark, all other interventions ignored our proposals and reiterated the frustration of ministers that Greece had . . . no proposals.

An impartial spectator of our eurogroup deliberations would come to the safe conclusion that it is a strange forum, one ill-equipped to forge good, hard decisions when Europe truly needs them.

What Varoufakis is really saying here is that he’s not actually allowed to negotiate with his peers, and as such the whole model is broken. It’s an important, if one-sided, insight into what is going on behind closed doors in the seemingly endless meetings about Greece’s financial future.

The negotiations are down to the wire. There is an emergency summit Monday, and other European leaders are warning that next week is Greece’s last to make a deal.

Until the ECB agreed to pump in emergency liquidity Friday in order to shore up Greek banks over the weekend, they were threatening that they might not be able to open on Monday.

It’s unclear if this op-ed will make much of a difference for the beleaguered Greeks.

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