New Greek minister's note to self: 'No triumphalism'

Newly appointed Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (C) attends a euro zone finance ministers meeting on the situation in Greece in Brussels, Belgium, July 7, 2015. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Greece’s new finance minister clearly wanted to avoid alienating his European colleagues as had his fast-talking predecessor. He took a note to their first meeting that read: “No triumphalism.”

Euclid Tsakalotos perhaps saw a risk of sounding smug after Greeks backed their left-wing government last Sunday against European Union leaders by rejecting a bailout proposal that called for stringent austerity measures.

Clutching a sheet of Brussels hotel notepaper as he arrived for Tuesday’s emergency meeting of euro zone finance ministers, Tsakalotos appeared to have made speaking notes for himself.

After “update on political situation”, he appeared to refer to the referendum with “Ref, of course ... rejection of instit(ution)s proposals ... mostly I think on viability grounds.

“No triumphalism.”

It seemed to work. Officials found him easier to deal with than Yanis Varoufakis, a fellow Marxist academic economist who resigned after Sunday’s referendum, saying Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras felt talks would go more smoothly without him.

As euro zone leaders held a summit late on Tuesday to discuss prospects for Greece, one official familiar with the ministers’ talks said of Tsakalotos: “Much better than Varoufakis. More conciliatory, constructive - and modest.”

Another, who also praised his intelligence and modesty, said Tsakalotos had broken the ice with a witty play on the forename he shares with the ancient Greek mathematician.

According to Euclid, the official quoted Tsakalotos as saying two parallel lines can never meet. But with positions converging after five months of conflict, the new Greek minister said the euro zone was now in a world of “non-Euclidian geometry”.

Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Toni Reinhold