ATHENS Feb 27 Greece used "creative ambiguity"
to win a loan lifeline from its international partners, Finance
Minister Yanis Varoufakis said, provoking anger in Germany's
parliament which approved the deal on Friday.
Varoufakis, a hero of the anti-austerity left who has raised
hackles among his more orthodox euro zone peers, said Greece had
drawn up an economic reform plan that was "full of ambiguities"
to fulfil a condition of the Eurogroup's four-month lifeline.
In a pre-recorded television interview aired on Friday he
also appeared to say that Athens had been encouraged by European
partners to use this tactic.
"We're proud of the degree of ambiguity - I'm using a term
here, creative ambiguity," Varoufakis told Antenna TV.
Varoufakis said in one "particular discussion" at a euro
zone finance ministers' meeting in Brussels this month he had
been encouraged to keep the language of his country's promises
"They asked for it. They're saying 'for us to pass it in our
parliaments, our institutions, it's better to leave it vague',"
he said, adding that he agreed with such tactics.
Though Varoufakis did not name the government officials in
that discussion he hinted at their country, saying: "You know
which parliaments in particular it goes to." Few euro zone
parliaments are voting on the issue and the four month extension
to Greece's EU/IMF bailout programme faced its stiffest
opposition in the German Bundestag.
"I want to be the first finance minister who doesn't refer
to numbers unless he is certain he can achieve them. I will
never refer to a number ... unless I can achieve it," Varoufakis
Greece's reform pledges were contained in a list sent to the
Eurogroup minutes before a deadline on Monday night and which
the euro zone finance ministers approved the following day.
That opened the way for the extension of the bailout, which
had been due to expire on Saturday, and lifted for now the
threat that Greece might go bankrupt and exit the euro zone.
The extension cleared another hurdle when the parliament of
Germany, the biggest contributor to Greece's 240 billion euro
EU/IMF bailout, gave its approval.
But a record number of dissenters from Chancellor Angela
Merkel's conservatives underscored growing scepticism about
whether the new government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras can
be trusted to deliver on its promises.
"Look at Tsipras, look at Varoufakis: would you buy a used
car from them?" Klaus-Peter Willsch, a dissident lawmaker from
Merkel's conservative party, said in parliament.
Varoufakis also said one of his contentions - that achieving
sizeable budget surpluses before debt payments over the next
decade would destroy the Greek economy - had got a sympathetic
reception in Brussels. "They say: 'we agree'," he said.
Separately, in a demonstration of the country's unorthodox
budget planning, a Greek government official said Athens planned
to submit a bill to parliament early in March that would reopen
state broadcaster ERT which the previous conservative-led
coalition closed down.
All ex-employees would be welcome to return to their old
jobs if they wanted, but this would not burden the budget, the
Several euro zone finance ministers including Germany's
Wolfgang Schaeuble have expressed doubts about the reform
promises, which rely on raising revenue in difficult areas such
as tackling tax evasion to fund social spending.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde said the list lacked "clear
assurances that the government intends to undertake the reforms
(writing by David Stamp; editing by Sophie Walker)