Questions Swirl Around Greek Finance Chief Tsakalotos’ Future

FILE - Greece's Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – With Greece locked in a third round of bailout talks and being pressed for more reforms, speculation has grown that Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, called in to oversee the negotiations, could find himself ousted for another position.

Tsakalotos, a Marxist economist forced into an embarrassing surrender to the country’s creditors, has taken a conciliatory line after replacing the hardliner and combative Yanis Vaourfakis, who was forced out two years ago after rejecting more austerity measures that Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras agreed to impose after swearing he wouldn’t.

Tsipras is said to be considering yet another Cabinet reshuffle in a desperate bid to stop his freefall in polls after reneging on anti-austerity promises and the business newspaper Naftemporiki said Tsakalotos could be replaced and moved to another position.

“A reshuffle  will take place. The when is related with the picture that we’ll have over how and how long the third review takes. Mr. (Alexis) Tsipras (the prime minister) will seek the best timing, he’s not facing another problem,” a top minister said on a TV show.

Finance Ministry officials, during an off-the-record briefing at the ministry, again attempted to downplay “over-optimistic” statements emanating from Tsipras’ office and even the Premier’s own rosy predictions, the newspaper said, adding there’s growing tension between the offices.

According to numerous press reports that were never refuted fully, Tsakalotos was twice ready to conclude negotiations with creditors for a second review that led to Tsipras agreeing to more pension cuts and taxes on low income families, overriding Tsakalotos who had to put up with nearly two years of tough talks with the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM).

While Tsipras’ office said no more austerity would be accepted – he’s said that repeatedly only to renege – Finance Ministry officials said more tough conditions could be in line if fiscal targets aren’t hit.