Isolated in debt talks, Greek finance rebel gets the cold shoulder

Sat Apr 25, 2015 7:56am EDT
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By Robin Emmott and Ingrid Melander

RIGA (Reuters) - As the buses carrying European finance ministers left for a gala dinner in the Latvian capital on Friday night, one of the party hung back at the hotel and then wandered off alone into the dusk.

Greece's Yanis Varoufakis had other dinner plans, he said, after a bruising first day of meetings in Riga that underlined his isolation as he tries to avert national bankruptcy.

While other ministers were feted by their entourages with food and warm clothing during the meeting in Riga, Varoufakis was seen alone at almost every turn, eschewing aides or any security detail.

"He is completely isolated," a senior euro zone official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "He didn't even come to the dinner to represent his country," the official said of the event where ministers, serenaded by a Latvian choir, ate salmon and sea bass.

At breakfast before the meeting, Varoufakis and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi avoided eye contact as they picked up food at the buffet, Reuters reporters observed.

The hardening of the mood against Varoufakis risks deepening the divide that Greece must bridge with its creditors if Athens is to avert default.

After three months of largely fruitless negotiations, euro zone ministers warned him on Friday that the radical leftist Greek government will get no more aid until it agrees a complete economic reform plan, before the end of June.

Some countries are so frustrated by what they see as Greece's failure to compromise that one minister said it may be time to prepare for a Greek default.   Continued...

Minister of Finance of Greece Yanis Varoufakis arrives to the informal meeting of Ministers for Economic and Financial Affairs (ECOFIN) in Riga, Latvia, April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins