Greek PM urges Varoufakis to ‘talk less, do more’
MAVERICK Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis — who has become a media phenomenon since Greece’s radical government came to power — has reportedly been warned by his own prime minister to talk less and do more.
Alexis Tsipras appeared to confirm reports he had ordered Varoufakis to keep a lower profile in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday.
Asked if he had pulled up his charismatic finance chief for giving too many media interviews, Tsipras said: “I have called for less words and more action from all members of the Ministerial Council (the official name of the cabinet), not just Mr Varoufakis.”
The ruling Syriza party’s own newspaper, Avgi, complained of his “toxic overexposure” this week after much criticism — and not a little ridicule — of Varoufakis in the Greek media.
Avgi warned that Varoufakis was “going to spend all the profits” of the support he had garnered for Greece since his unexpected elevation to international economics rock star.
“Yanis, don’t overdo it,” the paper said. “Because the economy isn’t only about the science of handling the budget. It’s about being frugal with words too.”
A cartoon in the liberal daily Kathimerini on Wednesday lampooned his omnipresence on TV, with a woman telling her husband to change channel every time Varoufakis popped up on the screen and her husband saying, “But I am!”
As Greece headed into a meeting with Eurogroup finance ministers on Monday, where it will argue to be allowed to raise more cash, the normally voluble Varoufakis has become uncharacteristically careful, also stepping back from social media in recent days. His last tweet on March 1 was “dedicated to muck-racking journalists”.
At a press conference he called in Athens this week he refused to answer questions and was also unusually reticent after a later speech.
His mood cannot have been helped by the embarrassing leak of his letter on Friday to the Eurogroup detailing major reforms ahead of Monday’s talks. The suggestion that the Greek government hire an army of amateur tax inspectors — including tourists — to crack down on tax fraud provoked an amused reaction from commentators.
While Varoufakis’s smouldering good looks had the serious German daily Die Welt declaring him a “sex icon”, the country’s finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is less of a fan, with reports of personality clashes between the two men fuelled by the Greek’s frequent and sometimes provocative interviews.
Varoufakis’s relative silence in recent days did not stop Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias from riling his EU opposite numbers on Saturday by warning that if Greece is allowed to collapse, millions of migrants would flood into Europe, including thousands of jihadists.
“Greece’s credit partners should take its position much more seriously,” Kotzias was quoted as saying by the state-run Athens news agency during a visit to Latvia.
And there was further fighting talk from Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis. “The country is at war with the lenders,” he told parliament on Friday. “Every month the leash is getting tighter for us. But in this war we won’t proceed like happy scouts ready to follow bail-out policies,” he warned.
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