international intrigue

Greece’s Leather-Clad Finance Minister Resigns

George Osbourne - Yanis Varoufakis
Photo: Yunus Kaymaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Now that the people of Greece have voted against an austerity-heavy (and no-longer-existent) bailout proposal, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will resume efforts to avoid an exit (or “Grexit”) from the eurozone. With some (many of them German) suggesting that it’s too late for Greece to reach a compromise with its creditors, Tsipras’s government has made what appears to be a gesture of good faith: Finance minister, leather jacket enthusiast, motorcycle owner, and self-described “erratic Marxist” Yanis Varoufakis has stepped down.

Varoufakis, whose colorful negotiating style has not endeared him to his eurozone counterparts, announced his resignation in a blog post titled “Minister No More!” This came shortly after he accused Greece’s creditors of “terrorism“:

Soon after the announcement of the referendum results, I was made aware of a certain preference by some Eurogroup participants, and assorted ‘partners’, for my… ‘absence’ from its meetings; an idea that the Prime Minister judged to be potentially helpful to him in reaching an agreement. For this reason I am leaving the Ministry of Finance today.

I consider it my duty to help Alexis Tsipras exploit, as he sees fit, the capital that the Greek people granted us through yesterday’s referendum.

And I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride.

Varoufakis will be replaced with Euclid Tsakalotos, the deputy foreign minister who was made Greece’s head negotiator in April when it became clear that Varoufakis had thoroughly alienated his European counterparts. Tsakalotos has been described as “soft-spoken,” which might make him better suited to reaching some kind of deal, if less believable as the husband of the inspiration for a Pulp song.

Meanwhile on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and François Hollande said that they remain willing to work with Greece. “The door is open. There’s not a lot of time left. There is urgency for Greece, and there is urgency for Europe,” said Hollande.”We are now waiting for very specific proposals from the Greek prime minister to enable Greece to return to prosperity,” Merkel added.

Adding to the drama was the European Central Bank’s decision not to expand its estimated €89 billion loan to Greece’s (currently closed) banks, which could run out of cash by Wednesday. And that’s not all: “Ominously, the central bank also said it would tighten requirements for collateral that Greek banks must post in return for loans,” the New York Times reports. “The decision means that, even if the European Central Bank decides to increase the lending limit, Greek banks might not have enough collateral needed to qualify for more emergency cash.” Greeks themselves remain limited to ATM withdrawls of just €60 a day.