Athens ready to delay some reforms, hopeful for EU deal -Varoufakis

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said on Friday (March 13) he was confident Athens could reach a deal by April 20 with its international creditors on the reforms it must implement to unblock further aid.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a business conference in northern Italy, Varoufakis also said Greece’s new leftist government was prepared to delay some of its promised anti-austerity measures in an effort to win EU backing.

“So, yes, we are absolutely confident that we can do that, we can stabilise the Greek social economy over the next few weeks, we can complete the review of the 20th of February Eurogroup agreement that we reached together with my Spanish colleague as well as everybody else around the table at the Eurogroup. We have a commitment, all of us, to reach an agreement by the 20th of April. We hope to do this before that regarding the reforms that are essential for Greece to be stabilised and to create the circumstances for future growth,” Varoufakis said.

The government was elected in January on a pledge to roll back austerity and renegotiate the terms of a 240 billion-euro international bailout, but it has faced fierce resistance from EU partners who are unwilling to offer Athens major compromises.

Although the partners agreed on Feb. 20 to a four-month extension to the bailout programme, the accord did not give Greece access to funds pledged to it from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund.

To obtain that cash, Athens needs to agree on a revised package of measures. After long delays, the discussions only kicked off in earnest this week in Brussels.

Varoufakis indicated on Friday a willingness to compromise.

” If this means that, for the next few months while we have negotiations, we suspend or we delay the implementation of our (election) promises, we should do precisely that in the context of building trust with our partners, coming to an agreement that will allow the economy to be stabilised and then to grow in such a way as to make these promises not only fiscally responsible but also possible to implement,” he said.

He also reiterated that Greece was in a position to meet its debt payment obligations and that it was not looking for support from outside Europe, including Russia andChina.

Greece is a member of the European Union, it is part of the indivisible Eurozone as we should consider it, and therefore our negotiations within the Eurozone and within the European Union must be an affair that is resolved within the European family,” said Varoufakis.

“The Greek government is not seeking outside support or indeed it’s not looking for any support. Our view is that Europe knows how to find solutions to its own problems on the basis of the strength of ideas, I don’t even like to consider what we are doing a negotiation, it’s a deliberation between member states that have common interests. And therefore I reject the whole logic of powerplays, of outside alliances, inside alliances, as I have been saying ever since we were elected, our task in Europe, not just for the Greek government but for everyone, is to put the interest of the average European above everything else and to try to look at our problems and our challenges at the European level as a common challenge, as a common project,” he continued to say.

With funds running low, the government would like to issue more short-term bills, expecting domestic Greek lenders to mop up the offers in order to help stave off possible default.

But the European Central Bank (ECB) is unwilling to allow Greek banks to load up further on potentially risky debt and is refusing to lift a cap on the amount of bills they can buy.

However, the ECB made just such a gesture in 2012, when the newly elected government of then-prime minister Antonis Samaras needed more money, and Varoufakis asked for the same treatment.

“I I believe that this is a similar situation we are facing now, and that it would be helpful if the ECB showed the same kind of flexibility today, given that this government is so very committed to establishing the process that will implement the agreement of the Eurogroup on the 20th of February,” he said.

Varoufakis is expected to attend the business conference in northern Italy’sCernobbio on Saturday (March 14).

Reuters wires