Dijsselbloem: Greece Needs Further Reform

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who will on Friday step down as president of the Eurogroup of euro area finance ministers, told the U.K.’s Financial Times newspaper that further reform efforts are needed in Greece.

Since July 2015 and after a tumultuous six months when Greece’s SYRIZA government, and particularly its then finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, fought euro area governments over conditions attached to rescue loans, we are now in “a completely different situation”, Dijsselbloem told the paper.

“Prime Minister Tsipras and, of course, [current finance minister] Euclid Tsakalotos, have completely changed the relationship with the European partners. Almost everything has been easier since,” Dijsselbloem was quoted as saying.

He said some of the measures Greece had to take to repair its shattered public finances were “extreme,” but that discussions had since shifted from belt-tightening to reform.

In the interview, Dijsselbloem said that during Varoufakis’ reign in the Greek finance ministry it was the southern and central European countries which pushed for ‘Grexit’.

While much had been said of plans circulated by Germany during those talks for a temporary Grexit, in practice it was countries of central and south-eastern Europe — many with lower wealth per head than Greece — that most lost patience with Athens.

“Behind the broad back of Germany were a number of countries lining up who simply said: ‘We’re done. We don’t have any confidence. We don’t want to talk any more with the Greek government. We want to talk about Plan B’,” he said.

Dijsselbloem said he never countenanced a Greek exit, which would have been “really damaging” and a “huge mistake”.