BERLIN (Reuters) - Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis voiced confidence on the eve of a meeting with Germany’s Wolfgang Schaeuble that Berlin will “show solidarity” in tackling Athens’ debt burden.
Asked by German public broadcaster ARD what he expected from the European Union, Varoufakis said the one thing Greece was asking for was not to be put under pressure by means of an ultimatum.
“Give us until the end of May, until the beginning of the summer, to be able to put our suggestions for a solution on the table so we can talk about them with our partners,” he said, adding Greece and Europe could then make new agreements.
“I’m sure that ... Dr. (Finance Minister) Schaeuble, Ms (Chancellor Angela) Merkel and everyone in Germany will show solidarity,” Varoufakis said on Wednesday, according to a transcript of the interview.
Varoufakis has been hopping across European capitals this week to win support for Greece’s plan to restructure debt and end austerity, which would involve swapping existing government debt for growth-linked or perpetual bonds.
He also said he was sure French Finance Minister Michel Sapin and “every decent European will agree it’s not right that... hundreds of thousands of Greeks aren’t sleeping properly and are going to bed hungry due to mistakes made by Europe and the Greek government in dealing with the deflation crisis.”
Varoufakis met European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on Wednesday and told ARD he left the meeting “full of hope that the euro zone is working”.
While on the tour he is asking partners whether they will help the new Greek government to reform the country, he said.
“We need to convince them we’re serious about it and they need to give Greece the chance to flourish in Europe,” he said.
Varoufakis said Greece was responsible for a lack of progress with reforms but that was not why the euro zone was experiencing deflation: “We’re canaries in a coal mine. This one is very weak so he dies first but he isn’t responsible for the poisonous gases.”
Varoufakis said that in the Greek parliament he sat alongside a “Nazi party”, referring to Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn, the country’s third biggest party.
“It is not in Germany or Greece’s interest for the situation to get worse because let’s be honest: nationalism is spreading and contaminating Europe. We don’t want to relive the postmodern 1930s on this continent again.”
He added: “If a proud nation is humiliated for too long and exposed to negotiations, sorrow and a debt deflation crisis without light at the end of the tunnel, then at some point this nation will boil.”
Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Andrew Roche/Ruth Pitchford