Monday 5 December 2016

Is this the man to replace Yanis Varoufakis as Greece's new finance minister?

Mehreen Khan

Published 06/07/2015 | 08:41

Minister Yanis Varoufakis (3rd L) and Euclid Tsakalotos (L) REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Minister Yanis Varoufakis (3rd L) and Euclid Tsakalotos (L) REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Greece's finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who resigned this morning, has achieved the previously unthinkable during his short time in office: unity in the eurozone.

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In a heated and ill-tempered meeting in Riga in April, all 18 of Yanis Varoufakis's counterparts rounded on the rookie politician, accusing him of being a "gambler" who had withered away the trust of his partners.

No voters kiss as they celebrate the results of the first exit polls in front of the Greek parliament in Syntagma Square in Athens last night
No voters kiss as they celebrate the results of the first exit polls in front of the Greek parliament in Syntagma Square in Athens last night

The episode could well sum up a lively five months for the iconoclastic Mr Varoufakis, who has been accused of everything from sticking his middle finger up at Berlin, to nearly coming to blows with eurozone chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem in a Brussels corridor.

Having alienated allies from Paris to Rome and helped secure a resounding No vote in yesterday's referendum, the former Marxist academic has now resigned as Greece's finance minister.

He said: "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."

Mr Varoufakis added: "I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride."

A supporter of the No vote waves a Greek flag in front of the parliament after the results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A supporter of the No vote waves a Greek flag in front of the parliament after the results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Supporters of the No vote chant slogans after the results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Supporters of the No vote celebrate after the results of the referendum in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
A riot police detains a youth during minor clashes in central Athens, Greece early July 6, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
"No" supporters shout slogans and wave Greek national flags during celebrations following a referendum in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Dimitris Michalakis
Supporters of the No vote celebrate after the results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
"No" supporters shout slogans during celebrations after a referendum in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Dimitris Michalakis
"No" supporters wave Greek national flags during celebrations in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Dimitris Michalakis
"No" supporters shout slogans during celebrations following a referendum in front of the parliament in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Dimitris Michalakis
"No" supporters shout slogans and wave Greek national flags during celebrations after a referendum in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Dimitris Michalakis
Masked youth walk along a street during minor clashes in central Athens, Greece late July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
"No" supporters shout slogans and wave Greek national flags during celebrations in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Dimitris Michalakis
Riot police detain masked youth during minor clashes in central Athens, Greece early July 6, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
"No" supporters wave Greek national flags on the main Constitution (Syntagma) square in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A "No" supporter waves an "Estelada" (Catalonian separatist flag) in Thessaloniki, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis
Supporters of the ruling Syriza party celebrate their victory in a referendum by the parliament in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Dimitris Michalakis
Supporters of the No vote celebrate after the results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A supporter of the No vote shouts slogans after the results of the referendum in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
"No" supporters wave Greek flags by the parliament in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A "No" supporter waves a Greek flag by the parliament in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015.REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A supporter of the No vote shouts slogans after the results of the referendum in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Sunday, July 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
A "No" supporter waves a Greek flag by the parliament in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

But who will replace him?

One obvious answer is Euclid Tsakalotos, Greece's minister for international economic affairs, who replaced Mr Varoufakis as Greece's lead negotiator in April.

Here's what we know about the man who has been touted as the more acceptable face of Syriza's dealings with the Troika.

Read more: Greek referendum: Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis resigns despite Greek people voting against Eurozone 'ultimatum'

Diametrically opposed to Yanis?

An Oxford-educated economist, Mr Tsakalotos has much in common with the political elite of Westminster, studying politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) as an undergraduate before completing his PhD in economics at Oxford in 1989.

The 55-year-old, who was born in Rotterdam, currently serves as the chief economic spokesman and effective shadow finance minister for the Syriza-led government.

Unlike Mr Varoufakis, Mr Tsakalotos is no party outsider. He has been a member of Syriza for nearly a decade, serving as an MP in the Greek parliament since 2012.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras casts his ballot at a polling station in Athens yesterday
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras casts his ballot at a polling station in Athens yesterday

But like many of his fellow Leftist parliamentarians, Mr Tsakalotos's background is as a jobbing Western academic rather than a professional politician, having taught at the universities of Kent and Athens.

Described as the "brains behind Syriza's economic policy", he has authored and co-authored six books, the most recent of which seeks to debunk the causes of Greece's economic turmoil.

Published in 2012, Crucible of Resistance: Greece, the Eurozone and the World Economic Crisis, argues that far from being an economic laggard, Greece underwent two decades of neo-liberal modernisation before the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. The result, he argues, was a widening in social inequality and a gaping democratic deficit.

In a refrain that will be familiar to many, the Marxist economist diagnoses Greece's ailments as not simply the consequence of "an economic crisis" but a "crisis of democracy" in the eurozone.

But far from advocating a "Grexit", as some of the more radical elements within Syriza, Mr Tsakalotos thinks Greece should maintain its membership of the euro.

A woman leaves a polling booth to cast her ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A woman leaves a polling booth to cast her ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Maps of Greece hang on the wall next to a voting booth in a polling station at a school's classroom in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
The moon sets behind a Greek flag over an elementary school used as polling station in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
An elderly voter waits outside a polling station at an elementary school in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A voter enters a polling station at a school's classroom in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A voting official prepares documents before opening the the polling station during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
People prepare to cast ballots during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A man casts his ballot during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A man prepares to cast his ballot during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015.REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A voter enters a polling station at a school's classroom in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. Greece voted on Sunday on whether to accept more austerity in exchange for international aid, in a high-stakes referendum likely to determine whether it leaves the euro-currency area after seven years of economic pain. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Ballot papers are seen on a table as a man leaves a polling booth before casting his ballot during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A child casts her grandmother's ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A woman enters a voting station before casting her ballot during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Voting officials are seen inside a polling station during a referendum in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Athenians are seen inside polling booths at a school in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A man enters a polling station to cast his ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A Greek Orthodox priest exits a booth holding a ballot at a polling station in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A Greek Orthodox priest exits a booth holding a ballot at a polling station in Athens, Greece July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A man raises his arms as he leaves a polling booth before casting his ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
A man leaves a polling booth to cast his ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A woman casts her ballot during a referendum vote in Athens, Greece, July 5, 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

"A Greek road to socialism where you exit the euro and do your own national strategy seems to be a straight re-run of Britain in the 1970s and France in the 1980s," he told an audience last year.

"The national roads seemed to have failed. We need an international flavour to any alternatives."

Read more: Landslide vote 'a sign of things to come', left-wing Irish TDs claim

Can he really square the circle?

In one of his most recent public speaking appearances, Mr Tsakalotos addressed a conference of Sinn Fein's political delegates in March.

Receiving a rousing reception from leader Gerry Adams, the economist proved he was not immune to rhetorical flourishes of his more flamboyant finance ministry counterpart.

"We are not asking for special treatment, but for equal treatment in a Europe of equals," thumped Mr Tsakalotos, in perfectly polished English.

His visit to Dublin was part of Syriza's wider policy to court the support of its fellow Leftist governments in Europe's southern states.

"Syriza and Sinn Fein as well as Podemos are part of a great realignment in European politics," he told republican supporters, describing the Irish as "honourary southerners" in the fight for a more equitable monetary union.

The polarising Mr Varoufakis's resignation is likely to be greeted with delight in Brussels.

However, it is substance, rather than style, that will bridge the chasm that still exists between Greece's lenders and its Leftist government. On the substantive points of raising VAT, reversing humanitarian aid pledges, and vowing not to sell-off the country's national assets, Mr Tsakalotos seems to be aligned with his immediate Mr Varoufakis.

In the words of Greek journalist Nick Malkoutzis, whether it is Mr Tsakalotos "delivering the bitter pill to Syriza, or Mr Varoufakis, makes little difference; they are not going to swallow it easily either way".

Telegraph.co.uk

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