March 12, 2015 / 9:02 AM / 2 years ago

Greek finance minister says ECB policy on Greece 'asphyxiating'

A European Union flag (L) and a Greek national flag flutter as the sky is reflected on a building front in Athens February 17, 2015.Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - The European Central Bank is pursuing a restrictive policy on Greece to pressure Athens and its official lenders to agree to a path that will lead the country out of its crisis, Greece's finance minister said on Thursday.

"The ECB in my opinion is pursuing a policy that can be considered asphyxiating toward our government," Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told Greece's Mega TV in an interview.

The ECB has refused to give Athens any leeway to issue short-term debt to meet its funding needs amid a cash crunch as leftover bailout funds remain on hold.

Varoufakis said the ECB's stance is also aimed at Greece's euro zone partners and the International Monetary Fund funding its bailout, as a way to also force them to find a solution with Athens.

Asked about his relationship with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, the minister said: "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."

Schaeuble has said that no aid would be handed to Greece until international lenders had agreed that it had delivered on its reform commitments.

Varoufakis said he is aware that his presence in the Eurogroup meetings has irked many finance ministers who had been used to dealing with a Greek government that ruled with directives via e-mails and faxes.

"Suddenly they realized that the Greek finance minister will be a problem for them, to the extent that he demands the right to have the Greek people's view heard," he said, calling it an educational process for his colleagues to bring politics back to the Eurogroup.

"The depoliticisation of economic policy at the Eurogroup has led Europe to deflation, with its people stating in Eurobarometer polls that they do not trust the European Union's institutions," Varoufakis said.

Reporting by George Georgiopoulos, editing by G Crosse and Ken Wills

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