Arriving at the meeting of the Eurozone’s finance ministers in Brussels this afternoon, Michael Noonan, Ireland's Minister of Finance dropped a small bombshell when he claimed that Yiannis Dragasakis, the Deputy Prime Minister, was replacing Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis as the head Greek negotiator.
“Greece must implement part of its commitments to receive part of the loan tranche” Noonan told journalists prior to the Eurogroup meeting, before going on to say that the Deputy Prime Minister of the government Mr Yiannis Dragasakis was taking over a leading role in Greece's negotiation with its creditors.
Specifically, according to the Kathimerini newspaper, Noonan was referring to negotiations over the technical details of the structural reforms proposed by Greece. Noonan said that there was to be an imminent meeting between the Greek authorities and the institutions and that "Greece had decided at the heart of the team that will be responsible for the discussions will be the office of the Deputy Prime Minister."
Dragasakis has been involved in prior Eurogroup meetings but it has long been understood that Varoufakis has been the leader of Greece’s negotiating efforts.
However Varoufakis’s provocative style has thought to have grated with some of his European counterparts and Noonan’s surprise comments have been seen as confirming speculation that Varoufakis is to be given a back seat in the negotiations as a conciliatory gesture from the Greek government to its European partners.
However Dragasakis swiftly refuted Noonan’s assertions, releasing a written statement in which he maintained that:
- There has been no change in the government’s plans regarding the negotiations.
- The government is being represented at the Eurogroup meeting by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.