France’s Socialist government offered support Sunday for Greece’s efforts to renegotiate debt for its huge bailout plan, amid renewed fears about Europe’s economic stability.
The backing was a victory for Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, holding talks with European officials to push for new conditions on debt from creditors who rescued Greece’s economy to save the shared euro currency. Worries have mounted that Greece’s new far left government might not pay back its debts.
Varoufakis is also visiting London and Rome – and said Sunday that he would visit Berlin. The German government has been particularly angry at the new Greek government’s position and bluntly rejected suggestions that Greece should be forgiven part of its rescue loans.
Varoufakis insisted that Greece wants to pay the money back, but said he wants new terms and new negotiating partners, arguing that “it’s not worth” discussing with the so-called “troika” of creditors who set the strict terms for Greece’s rescue.
France’s Socialist leadership, whose president has campaigned against austerity, presented itself Sunday as a possible mediator between Greece and creditors.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin insisted his country wouldn’t support canceling the debt, but offered support for a new timeframe or terms.
“France is more than prepared to support Greece,” Sapin said after meeting Varoufakis, saying Greece’s efforts to renegotiate were “legitimate.” Sapin urged a “new contract between Greece and its partners.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his new government have worried financial markets and German and other European officials by pushing to scrap painful budget cuts and rethinking the debt. Tsipras sought to calm worries over the weekend after days of increasingly heated discussions.
Varoufakis announced that he has retained financial consultants Lazard as advisers to the Finance Ministry on issues of public debt and fiscal management. The socialist PASOK party, which ran Greece during part of its debt crisis, praised the decision, noting that then-Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos also hired Lazard advisers when he negotiated with private bondholders in 2011-2012.