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Yanis Varoufakis

Greeks are voting in a controversial referendum on whether to accept the terms of an international bailout.

Polling stations opened at 07:00 local time, with the first results expected in the evening.

The government has urged a “No” vote, but opponents warn this could see Greece ejected from the eurozone.

Greeks appear evenly divided over the issue, according to opinion polls. Turnout is expected to be high, after a frenetic week of campaigning.

Leaders in the governing radical-left Syriza party have criticized the bailout terms as humiliating. They say rejecting the terms could give them more leverage in talks over Greece’s massive debt.Greece bailout Referendum 2015

“No one can ignore the determination of a people taking its destiny in its own hands,” PM Alexis Tsipras said, after casting his ballot on July 5.

However, international creditors have warned that a “No” vote could choke off vital funding for Greek banks and lead to “Grexit – a chaotic departure from the common European currency. The “Yes” campaign has framed the vote as a referendum on Greek membership of the eurozone.

Supporters of both sides held rallies in Athens on July 3. Banks stayed shut because of capital controls imposed after the expiry of the current bailout program.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told local media on Saturday that the EU had “no legal grounds” to throw Greece out of the euro.

On the eve of the referendum, Yanis Varoufakis accused Athens’ creditors of trying to sow fear around the vote. He told Spain’s El Mundo newspaper: “Why did they force us to close the banks? To instil fear in people. And spreading fear is called terrorism.”

Yanis Varoufakis said that the banks in Greece would reopen on July 7 whatever the outcome and that PM Alexis Tsipras would still reach an agreement with creditors if the result was “No” in the referendum.

Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, one of Greece’s harshest critics, suggested that if Greece were to leave the eurozone, it might only be temporary.

“Whether with the euro or temporarily without it: only the Greeks can answer this question,” he told the German newspaper Bild.

“And it is clear that we will not leave the people in the lurch.”

The referendum question is: “Must the agreement plan submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the Eurogroup of 25 June, 2015, and comprised of two parts which make up their joint proposal, be accepted? The first document is titled <<Reforms for the completion of the current program and beyond>> and the second <<Preliminary debt sustainability analysis>>.”

Voters must check one of two boxes – “not approved/no” or, below it, “approved/yes”.

Eurozone finance ministers have reportedly rejected Greece’s request to extend bailout program beyond June 30.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Greece asked for a one-month extension of its expiring rescue deal.

But the request was swiftly rejected by the rest of the eurozone, three European officials said on June 27.Greece bailout extension rejected

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis made the request at a meeting with his eurozone counterparts in Brussels, a day after the government in Athens said it would hold a referendum on its bailout in which it would campaign against the policy overhauls and budget cuts demanded by its creditors.

The finance ministers of the other 18 eurozone countries will meet without Greece later Saturday evening, two European officials said.

Many ministers expressed surprise and disappointment toward Greece’s PM Alexis Tsipras’s decision to call for a referendum in which he would campaign against the budget cuts and policy overhauls demanded by his country’s creditors.

Alexander Stubb, Finland’s finance chief, was one of several ministers who said their negotiations would now focus on how to deal with the consequences of a Greek default.

“Plan B becomes Plan A,” Alexander Stubb told reporters.

A meeting of European finance ministers in Luxembourg ended with no agreement on Greece’s debt.

The head of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, has said that Greece needs to seize a “last opportunity” to reach a deal with its creditors.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem called on Greece to submit “credible” proposals in the coming days.

To help tackle the crisis, an emergency summit of leaders from Eurozone nations has been called for June 22.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem highlighted that “very little time remains” as Greece’s current bailout program runs out this month.

“It is still possible to find an agreement and extend the current program before the end of the month, but the ball is clearly in the Greek court to seize that last opportunity,” he said.

The Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, said his nation had presented a “comprehensive” proposal and that disagreement only existed over spending equivalent to 0.5% of Greek GDP, which he says does not constitute a “dangerous impasse”.Greece debt talks Luxembourg

Yanis Varoufakis highlighted that Greece has already made a “gigantic adjustment” over the last five years and rejected any measures that would “jack-up” taxes and reduce benefits further.

He warned that negotiations were “dangerously close to a state of mind that accepts an accident”.

Greece has less than two weeks remaining to strike a deal with its creditors or face defaulting on an existing €1.6 billion loan repayment due to the IMF.

The country has already rolled a €300 million payment into those due on June 30.

If it fails to make the payment, Greece risks has to leave the eurozone and possibly also the EU.

The European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB) are unwilling to unlock bailout funds until Greece agrees to reforms.

They want Greece to implement a series of economic changes in areas such as pensions, VAT and on the budget surplus before releasing €7.2 billion of funds, which have been delayed since February.

Pressure was also raised on Greece today when the boss of the International Money Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, warned there was “no period of grace” for Greece over its impending debt repayment deadline.

Christine Lagarde said Greece would be in default on its loans from the IMF if it failed to make a €1.6 billion ($1.8 billion) payment on June 30.

Greece is expected to reach an agreement with its international creditors within the next week, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said.

The Greek government is fast running out of money and is due to make a payment of €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on June 5.

Yanis Varoufakis told Star TV a deal with creditors was “very close” and denied Greece might leave the eurozone.

“Another currency is not on our radar,” he said.

PM Alexis Tsipras also talked up the prospect of a deal in a speech to Greek business figures earlier, saying the government was “in the final straight” before a deal.

Greece has been locked in negotiations with the EU and IMF over economic reforms they say must be implemented before the final €7.2 billion tranche of the country’s €240 billion bailout is released.Greece Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis

Issues over pension reform, taxation, deregulation of the labor market, and the re-hiring of 4,000 former civil servants are yet to be resolved.

Last week, the government emptied its IMF reserves in order to pay €750 million in debt interest on its existing loans.

An apparent proposal from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker emerged in Greek newspaper To Vima on May 18 before a spokeswoman quickly said she was unaware of it.

However, the plan for emergency funding and smaller primary surplus targets, in return for limited Greek fiscal reforms worth €5 billion, was not completely denied.

A Commission spokeswoman said she was unaware of Jean-Claude Juncker’s reported proposal.

The status of Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposal was unclear, but European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici complained in Berlin that the left-led government was “more eager to say what they don’t want to keep in the program than to propose alternatives”.

Greek media reported on May 19 that the government had sent proposals to its international creditors to revamp VAT rates in an attempt to tackle tax evasion.

Alexis Tsipras is due to attend the EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, where Greece is likely to be a key topic.

Yanis Varoufakis said a payment deal was on the cards, but insisted he would reject any compromise he considered “non-viable”.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas has welcomed the commitment by the Greek government to bring the talks to a conclusion, but said more time and effort was needed “to bridge the gaps on the remaining open issues in the negotiations”.

Greece’s PM Alexis Tsipras has said his country is in the final, critical stretch of talks with its international creditors and that he believes an interim deal will be in place by May 9.

Greece’s objective was to find an agreement this week or next week at the latest, Alexis Tsipras said in a marathon TV interview on April 27.

Alexis Tsipras defended Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who was sidelined from Greece’s negotiating team on April 27.

However, the prime minister admitted mistakes had been made in talks with EU partners.

Since Greece’s left-wing Syriza party came to power on January 25, it has sought to renegotiate the terms of the country’s €240 billion ($260 billion) bailout from the IMF and EU.Alexis Tsipras EU deal

Greece’s negotiators have so far failed to satisfy the country’s international creditors with the scope of economic reforms required before the EU hands over the latest €7.2 billion tranche of the bailout, which the government needs to pay its bills.

Yanis Varoufakis was left isolated at an EU finance ministers meeting in Latvia on April 24, skipping a state dinner and tweeting a line from late US President Franklin Roosevelt.

Describing Yanis Varoufakis as an important asset for Greece, Alexis Tsipras argued that he had annoyed his European colleagues because he spoke their language better than they did.

From now on, Greece’s negotiations will be led by another economist in the government, Euclid Tsakalotos.

In his three-hour appearance on Greece’s Star TV, Alexis Tsipras acknowledged there was a “negative atmosphere” surrounding the talks but he suggested it was all a standard part of negotiations.

Alexis Tsipras was also critical of the government’s European negotiating partners, accusing them of reneging on a verbal commitment in February to allow Greek banks to finance the government.

“I believe we are close. I believe that if no-one wants to undermine or torpedo [the talks] we are close to an accepted package,” he said.

There would be concessions, the prime minister said, such as the part privatization of Piraeus port and the leasing of 14 regional airports.

Greece is facing a €200 million debt interest payment to the IMF on May 1st and has appealed to various public bodies to provide money from their cash reserves.

The big debt interest payment to the IMF is due on May 12, when the Greek government will have to find another €750 million.

Almost half the international investors surveyed by German research group Sentix believe Greece will leave the euro in the next 12 months.

Sentix’s break-up index for Greece rose from 35.5% in March to 48.8% in April, based on a survey of around 1,000 investors.

Alexis Tsipras rejected the idea of snap elections if EU talks failed but he did say that a referendum could be held on a final deal.

According to German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble, Greece would struggle to find creditors outside the EU and IMF.

Wolfgang Schauble said Greece would be welcome to try to find investment from Beijing or Moscow, but may have difficulties.

His warning came after fears of a Greek debt default saw its borrowing costs jump 3.5 percentage points to 27%.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said his government refuses to consider leaving the EU: “Toying with Grexit… is profoundly anti-European.”

Yanis Varoufakis also promised to “compromise, compromise, compromise without being compromised” to satisfy current creditors.

Wolfgang Schauble and Yanis Varoufakis were speaking at talks in Washington.

On April 15, ratings agency S&P downgraded Greece’s credit rating.

Yields also rose on longer-term Greek borrowing, with the 10-year bond yield – the amount investors demand for lending – rising one percentage point to 13%.

Wolfgang Schauble said that the Greek government needs to find creditors.

“The Europeans have said, OK, we are ready to do it [lend money] until 2020… If you find someone else, whether it’s in Beijing, in Moscow, in Washington DC, or in New York who will lend you money, ok, fine, we would be happy. But it’s difficult to find someone who is lending you in this situation amounts [of] €200 billion.”

He added that Greece must focus on increasing its competitiveness and primary surplus.Germany and Greece finance ministers

Wolfgang Schaeuble was speaking after the Greek government’s borrowing costs surged on April 16.

According to the Financial Times, Greece had made an “informal approach” to the International Monetary Fund to have its bailout repayments delayed, but had been rebuffed.

However, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said at the World Bank spring meeting in Washington: “We have never had an advanced economy asking for payment delays.

“Payment delays are analysed as additional financing granted to that country. Additional financing means additional contribution by the international community – some of which are in much direr situations than the country eventually seeking those delays.

“Payment delays had not been granted by the board of the IMF in the last 30 years and it was eventually granted to a couple of developing countries and that delay was not followed by very productive results.

“It’s clearly not a course of action that would actually fit or be recommendable in the current situation.”

Greece owes the IMF some €1 billion ($1.06 billin) in repayments next month.

Many in the markets think the Greek government will struggle to make those payments if it does not agree an economic reform package with European creditors soon.

Failure to agree a plan with creditors will mean that the country will default, a development that could force the government to put limits on money transfers and even lead Greece to leave the euro.

EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said on April 16 that the EU was “not satisfied with the level of progress made so far” in debt negotiations.

Wolfgang Schauble had warned that he did not expect an agreement between Athens and its creditors in the next week.

However, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras on April 16 said he was “firmly optimistic” the Greek government could reach a deal with its creditors.

“Despite the cacophony and erratic leaks and statements in recent days from the other side, I remain firmly optimistic that there will be an agreement by the end of the month,” Alexis Tsipras said.

According to Alexis Tsipras, several points of agreement had been found since talks first started, including on areas such as tax collection, corruption and initiatives to distribute the tax burden on those who have the ability to pay.

HEe said the two sides still disagreed on four areas: labor issues, pension reform, an increase in value-added taxes and privatizations, which he referred to as “development of state property”.

In a later tweet, Alexis Tsipras said he was “certain that Europe will choose the path to democracy”.

Germany owes Greece nearly €279 billion ($303 billion) in war reparations for the Nazi occupation during World War Two, the Greek government says.

It is the first time Greece has officially calculated what Germany allegedly owes it for Nazi atrocities and looting during the 1940s.

However, the German government says the issue was resolved legally years ago.

Greece’s radical left Syriza government is making the claim while struggling to meet massive debt repayment deadlines.

PM Alexis Tsipras raised the reparations issue when he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last month.

Photo Wikipedia

Photo Wikipedia

The new figure given by Greek Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas includes €10.3 billion for an occupation loan that the Nazis forced the Bank of Greece to pay.

“According to our calculations, the debt linked to German reparations is 278.7 billion euros,” Dimitris Mardas told a parliamentary committee investigating responsibility for Greece’s debt crisis.

Dimitris Mardas said the reparations calculation had been made by Greece’s state general accounting office.

Berlin paid 115 million Deutschmarks to Athens in 1960 in compensation – a fraction of the Greek demand. Greece says it did not cover payments for damaged infrastructure, war crimes and the return of the forced loan.

Germany insists the reparations issue was settled in 1990 legally and politically before Germany reunified.

Syriza politicians have frequently blamed Germany for the hardship suffered by Greeks under the tough bailout conditions imposed by international lenders.

PM Alexis Tsipras is trying to renegotiate the €240 billion EU-IMF bailout that saved Greece from bankruptcy. Greece has not received bailout funds since August last year, as the lenders are dissatisfied with the pace of Greek reforms.

A Greek repayment of €448 million to the International Monetary Fund is due on April 9.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said that Greece “intends to meet all obligations to all its creditors, ad infinitum”.

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Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said it is possible that a referendum could be held if the eurozone rejects the country’s debt renegotiation plans.

The comments came ahead of today’s Eurogroup meeting in Brussels, where Greece is to give detailed plans of its debt and growth terms.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras reacted by urging Yanis Varoufakis to use “fewer words and more action”.

The finance ministry clarified that eurozone membership was not in doubt.

In an Italian newspaper interview on March 8 Yanis Varoufakis was asked what his options were if a deal was not agreed.

“If needed, if we encounter implacability, we will resort to the Greek people either through elections or a referendum,” he replied.Yanis Varoufakis Greece bailout referendum

This was interpreted by some as a threat to leave the eurozone if talks broke down, something the Greek government was quick to deny.

Greek officials pointed out that the words “for the euro” had been added to Yanis Varoufakis’s remarks in brackets in the article. Greece’s eurozone membership was “a given” and did not form any part of negotiations with the Eurogroup, they added.

Yanis Varoufakis later criticized the reports as “willful attempts to undermine the good course” of attempts to agree a deal with creditors.

In a widely leaked letter to the Eurogroup, Yanis Varoufakis set out seven key reforms which he hopes will appease eurozone lenders and allow the next installment of bailout money to be released.

Greece aims to save €200 million through public spending cuts, as well as streamlining bureaucracy and cracking down on tax evasion.

European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis has rejected the letter, telling a German newspaper that “a letter here or there isn’t going to change much.”

He said Greece must first implement its reforms, adding that he did not expect a deal to be completed at March 9 meeting.

Greece needs to agree terms so that it will become eligible for more credit from the eurozone and the IMF. This would in turn allow its banks to finance themselves from the European Central Bank.

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According to a leaked document, the Greek government could hire “non-professional” tax inspectors, including tourists, to spy on tax evaders.

Students and housewives could also be used as part of the reported scheme to tackle fraud, which could include hidden cameras and recording devices.

It is said to be one of the ideas Greece will raise at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on March 9.

Greece needs to convince them it is serious about reform to receive further credit.

Eurozone leaders want to extend help on Greece’s €240 billion ($272 billion) bailout until the end of June in return for commitments to further reform.

The leaked document, a letter reportedly sent by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis to Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, was seen by the Financial Times and AFP.Greece tax evasion 2015

“The culture of tax avoidance runs deep within Greek society,” the letter reportedly says.

“Tax authorities are not only understaffed but immersed in the logic of book-checking when the real problem lies off the books.”

Informal tax inspectors would be hired on a “strictly short-term casual basis – no longer than two months and without any prospect of being rehired”.

Yanis Varoufakis is quoted as saying that the very news that there were thousands of casual onlookers carrying spying equipment on behalf of the tax authorities could shift attitudes quickly.

The amateur inspectors would be able to go to places traditional tax inspectors would be wary of visiting such as nightclubs and medical facilities, he added.

Other proposals reportedly include taxing online gambling, streamlining the bureaucracy and activating an existing plan for an independent watchdog to monitor government fiscal policy.

The new government also wants to spend more money to help those who have been hardest hit by Greece’s long recession.

The Greek stock market fell by more than 4% at its open on Tuesday, February 17, after European finance ministers failed to reach a new deal to restructure the country’s debts.

Greek bank shares fell almost 9%, while the government’s borrowing costs rose, with the yield on a 10-year sovereign bond rising 82 basis points to 10.74%.

On Monday night, Greece rejected a plan to extend its €240 billion bailout.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called the EU deal “absurd” and “unacceptable”.

However, Yanis Varoufakis declared he was ready to do “whatever it takes” to reach agreement over Greece’s bailout, despite the collapse of the talks.

He also said he was prepared to agree a deal under different conditions.

The Greek stock exchange recovered some ground as the day progressed, but at midday on Tuesday in Athens, it was still 2.25% lower.

Stock exchanges across Europe all fell in morning trade before recovering.

Germany’s main index, the Dax, was 0.35% lower and France’s blue chip index, the CAC-40, down 0.19% at mid-day.Yanis Varoufakis Greece debt deal

In the UK, which has less exposure to Greece’s debt woes, the FTSE 100 Index which also started the day lower, had risen 0.45% by lunchtime.

JP Morgan claimed over the weekend that €2 billion worth of deposits was flowing out of Greek banks each week and estimated that if that were to remain the case, they would run out of cash to use as collateral against new loans within 14 weeks.

The investment bank’s estimate is based on a calculation that a maximum of €108 billion of deposits is left in Greek banks.

The most up-to-date figures from the Greek central bank show deposits dropped 2.4% month-on-month in December to €160.3 billion from €164.3 billion, marking the third monthly fall in a row.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also chairing the Eurogroup meetings of eurozone finance ministers, warned on Monday night there were just days left for talks.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem said it was now “up to Greece” to decide if it wanted more funding or not.

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, he said: “I hope they [Greece] will ask for an extension to the program, and once they do that, we can allow flexibility, they can put in their political priorities.

“Of course, we will see whether their program remains on track. But that is the way forward. It’s really up to the Greeks. We cannot make them or ask them. It really it really is up to them. We stand ready to work with them, also [over] the next couple of days.”

Greece’s current bailout expires on February 28. Any new agreement would need to be approved by national governments, so time is running out to reach a compromise.

Without a deal, Greece is likely to run out of money.

On Tuesday morning, Luxembourg’s Finance Minister, Pierre Gramegna, called for a greater degree of compromise on both sides.

“We can’t remain in a blockade, so everyone has to move a bit, water down demands, so we can find a compromise. There are flexibilities in the program, we have to make use of them,” he said.

“When the Greeks are against the programme and don’t want to work in this framework, it will be tough.”

Yanis Varoufakis said on Tuesday ministers would “continue to deliberate”, in order to enhance the chances of a deal.

He added he wanted to achieve “a very good outcome for the average European. Not for the average Greek, the average Dutch person or the average German”.

“We know in Europe how to deliberate in such a way as to create an honourable solution out of an initial disagreement,” Yanis Varoufakis said.

Greece has proposed a new bailout program that involves a bridging loan to keep the country going for six months and help it repay €7 billion of maturing bonds.

The second part of the plan would see Greece’s debt refinanced. Part of this might be through “GDP bonds” – bonds carrying an interest rate linked to economic growth.

Greece also wants to see a reduction in the primary surplus target – the surplus the government must generate (excluding interest payments on debt) – from 3% to 1.49% of GDP.

Two opinion polls last week indicated that 79% of Greeks supported the government’s policies, and 74% believed its negotiating strategy would succeed.

Greece is ready to do “whatever it takes” to reach agreement on its bailout in the next two days, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said.

Yanis Varoufakis was speaking after talks with EU finance ministers broke down earlier than expected, with Greece describing the EU’s offer as “absurd”.

“I have no doubt that there is going to be a agreement in the end which will be very therapeutic for Greece,” he said.

Greece wants the conditions of its €240 billion bailout restructured.

Yanis Varoufakis said “within the next 48 hours” Europe would find the phrasing that was necessary to satisfy both Greece and Europe.

However, he said there was “substantial disagreement” on whether the task ahead was to complete the current program, which his government has pledged to scrap.

Yanis Varoufakis also said that he had been presented with a draft communiqué which he had been ready to sign, but that it had been withdrawn minutes before the meeting started.

The Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem also said there was still time for Greece to agree an extension.

“There is time and ample room to agree on the terms of an extension. When I listen to my Greek colleagues talking about a bridging loan and so on – that’s a different word for an extension,” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

He said says another meeting was possible on February 20 but that it was “up to the Greeks”.Yanis Varoufakis Greece bailout

“My strong preference is and still is to get an extension of the program, and I think it is still feasible,” he told a press conference.

Greece’s current bailout expires on February 28. Any new agreement would need to be approved by national governments so time is running out to reach a compromise, without which Greece is likely to run out of money.

Before the meeting, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had already said he was not optimistic a deal would be reached: “The problem is that Greece has lived beyond its means for a long time and that nobody wants to give Greece money any more without guarantees.”

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said European leaders needed to respect the political change in Athens. As he arrived in Brussels he urged the Greeks to extend their current deal to allow time for talks.

Greece has proposed a new bailout program that involves a bridging loan to keep the country going for six months and help it repay €7 billion of maturing bonds.

The second part of the plan would see the county’s debt refinanced. Part of this might be through “GDP bonds” – bonds carrying an interest rate linked to economic growth.

Greece also wants to see a reduction in the primary surplus target – the surplus the government must generate (excluding interest payments on debt) – from 3% to 1.49% of GDP.

In Greece last week, two opinion polls indicated that 79% of Greeks supported the government’s policies, and 74% believed its negotiating strategy would succeed.

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Greece’s new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis says his government will not negotiate over the Greek bailout conditions with the “troika” team from the EU and IMF.

Yanis Varoufakis said he was rather seeking direct talks with eurozone leaders, to try to cancel more than half the money Greece owes.

The minister was speaking after meeting Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the Eurogroup – the eurozone finance ministers.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Greece should stick to its reform commitments.

He said Greece and the Eurogroup had a “mutual interest in the further recovery of the Greek economy inside the eurozone” and warned against Athens acting unilaterally in its efforts to renegotiate its bailout.

Greece has endured tough budget cuts in return for its €240 billion ($270 billion) bailout, agreed in 2010 with the “troika” – the European Commission, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB).

There was little warmth between the two men at the news conference, with Jeroen Dijsselbloem making a brusque exit.Jeroen Dijsselbloem and Yanis Varoufakis

Breaking with tradition, Yanis Varoufakis wore an open-neck shirt – hanging loose at his belt. Jeroen Dijsselbloem was dressed conventionally.

On the troika, Yanis Varoufakis said: “We have no intention of co-operating with a three-member committee whose goal is to implement a program whose logic we consider anti-European.”

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch Finance Minister, said the two sides would decide what would happen next before the bailout program ends – that is, by February 28.

He also met Greek PM Alexis Tsipras in Athens, who led the Syriza radical left-wing coalition to victory in elections on Sunday.

Yanis Varoufakis, meanwhile, said Greece was not asking for an extension of the existing bailout, but seeking a “new agreement that will emerge following talks between all Europeans”.

He said he would he seek “maximum co-operation” with Greece’s international creditors, but that he would not work through the “troika”, which he called “a committee built on rotten foundations”.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem rejected Alexis Tsipras’s idea of convening a European conference on debt.

“This conference already exists and it’s called the Eurogroup,” he told the news conference.

Syriza won on an anti-austerity platform, promising to have half of Greece’s debt written off, and to roll back on deep cuts to jobs, pay and pensions.

Greece’s economy has shrunk drastically since the 2008 global financial crisis, and high unemployment has thrown many Greeks into poverty.

The new government has already pressed ahead with cancelling major privatization projects, including of the two main ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki.

But EU officials have warned there is little appetite among eurozone countries for cutting the debt.

Greece has about €20 billion ($22.5 billion) to repay this year, according to the Greek finance ministry.

Economists estimate that Greece needs to raise about €4.3 billion in the first quarter.

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Greece’s new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has formed a new cabinet with Yanis Varoufakis as finance minister and right-winger Panos Kammenos as defense minister.

Yanis Varoufakis is an outspoken critic of the conditions imposed on Greece in return for the 2010 bailout.

He will have the tough job of leading talks with the EU over the Syriza party’s pledge to renegotiate Greece’s massive international bailout.

Panos Kammenos is a member of the anti-bailout Independent Greeks party.

It joined a coalition with Syriza, after the left-wing party narrowly failed to secure a majority in parliament in Sunday’s elections.

The EU has meanwhile warned that the new government must stick to its creditor commitments.Alexis Tsipras prime minister

The government’s chief economics spokesman, Euclid Tsakalotos, has argued that it is unrealistic to expect Greece to repay its huge debt in full.

Correspondents say that the appointment of Yanis Varoufakis – who holds dual Greek and Australian nationality – is a signal that the new Syriza-led coalition will take an uncompromising stance when renegotiating Greece’s €240 billion ($270 billion) EU-IMF package.

Yanis Varoufakis insists that Greece cannot restore its finances until its debt is lessened and has described the bailout as “fiscal waterboarding”.

Before the appointment of Yanis Varoufakis, PM Alexis Tsipras said EU leaders needed now to show that they were willing to work with Syriza – and that it would be his “worst nightmare” if the eurozone collapsed because Greece fell.

The appointment of Panos Kammenos into the 11-minister cabinet is also likely to be controversial, correspondents say, because of his claims that Germany is to blame for his country’s economic woes by its insistence on budgetary belt tightening.

Other key appointments made by the prime minister include: Nikos Kotzias as foreign minister, Nikos Pappas as state minister, Nikos Voutsis as interior minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis as production and environment minister, Panos Skourletis as labor and social solidarity minister.

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