Greece has accused German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble of insulting his Greek counterpart, the latest deterioration in a relationship badly strained by Berlin’s tough line on Greece’s debt woes.
The hawkish Schaeuble, who has become a lightning rod for Greek frustrations, was quoted in Greek media as telling reporters after EU discussions on Greece in Brussels that Yanis Varoufakis was “foolishly naive” in his communications.
“There was an official complaint from our ambassador in Berlin to the German Foreign Ministry on Tuesday night,” Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras said on Thursday.
“It was a complaint after what he (Schaeuble) said about Mr. Varoufakis. As a minister of a country that is our friend and our ally, he cannot personally insult a colleague.”
Koutras did not specify what the alleged insult was. Foreign media covering Schaeuble in Brussels did not report the “foolishly naive” comment, leading to suggestions in some local newspapers that he might have been mistranslated.
Greece’s new far-left government was elected on a vow to relax the conditions of a 240 billion euro ($US250 billion) bailout, which it says have suffocated its economy, causing mass unemployment and poverty.
However, Varoufakis has so far made little headway against a largely sceptical EU, most of which has backed Germany’s insistence on rigorous financial austerity, while his outspoken media interviews have clearly annoyed his more discreet EU partners.
With ties already at a low ebb, Greece this week renewed its campaign to seek compensation for the Nazis’ brutal occupation in World War Two, an issue that Berlin says was settled decades ago.
Varoufakis told Greek television on Wednesday that he had “great respect” for Schaeuble, but signaled that there were strains:
“Mr. Schaeuble has told me I have lost the trust of the German government. I have told him that I never had it. I have the trust of the Greek people.”
Last month, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had to apologise after a newspaper close to his Syriza party depicted Schaeuble as a Nazi spouting comments invoking the Holocaust.
On Thursday, the same paper, Avgi (The Dawn), printed a cartoon of Schaeuble saying: “Greeks, you are accused of wanting to live! This desire of yours is punished by death!”
(Additional reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Kevin Liffey)