“Political negotiation team” under Minister Varoufakis and coordination to Euclid Tsakalotos

The Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held a meeting with his cabinet’s top finance officers on Sunday in order to discuss the development of the critical negotiations with Greece’s partners.

According to a non paper that was later issued regarding the meeting, the government will extend its support for Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, following a number of disparaging media reports against him.

Furthermore, it was decided to establish a “political negotiation team” under Minister Varoufakis, the coordination of which has been appointed to the Alternate Minister of International Economic Relations Euclid Tsakalotos.

A special coordination team, under General Secretary Spyros Sagias, has been formed in order to assist the technical teams in Athens, while SOE president Giorgos Houliarakis will be in charge of the technical teams at the Brussels Group.

Finally, the General Secretary of Fiscal Policy Nikos Theoharakis has been tasked with developing a growth plan for the Greek economy, which will be based upon the new agreement that will be reached in June.

The government is moving towards a gradual, step-by-step agreement with its institutional loan partners, Varoufakis and Tsakalotos said, following the first meeting of the newly-founded “political negotiation team”.

The outline of a draft bill that will codify the reform proposals included in the list prepared by Varoufakis for the ongoing negotiations with the institutions will be ready by Tuesday evening and be put to discussion before the cabinet on Thursday, they said.

Varoufakis noted that the list was added to substantively. It would not include nonperforming loans or the issue of a bad bank, he underlined, but would include provisions on social insurance and taxation (including the tax service’s administration and improved collection of VAT). The issue of VAT rates would be negotiated in June, he said, while a tax on overnight reservations in hotels and other tourist housing would not be included at this phase.

The provisions, he said, are “our own initiatives, and I hope they will be agreed upon by the institutions. If we agree, that can provide the basis for a medium-term agreement.”

He said that the government would “do the impossible in order to achieve an honourable agreement. Negotiations will be very difficult, among the most complicated,” especially he said because institutions changed views constantly. “We respect the procedures and [our loan] partners, but we have a popular mandate to change the philosophy of a programme that has failed,” he added.

Tsakalotos said that “we always learn from our experiences and our mistakes; our victories and our successes are as collective as our mistakes are. That’s how we will continue – collectively. The government is united, and the negotiating team is united.”