Eurozone Chief Will Press Tsipras

ATHENS – Eurozone chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem was meeting with Greek Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras on Jan. 30, squeezing him to stick to reforms demanded by international lenders.

Dijsselbloem was to also meet with anti-austerity hardliner Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis later in the day, kicking off tense talks between Greece and the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank that put up 240 billion euros ($272 billion) in two bailouts but got big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings in return from previous governments.

Dijsselbloem was expected to press the new government to honor memoranda signed by his predecessors, the PASOK Socialists and New Democracy Conservatives, who implemented big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that enraged Greeks and brought down those governments.

Varoufakis was expected to press creditors to reduce the target for Greece’s primary surplus, from 4.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product to around 1 percent and to concentrate and seeking a real balanced budget.

The Greek Finance Ministry said the Eurogroup leader’s visit marked the beginning of negotiations between Greece and its partners “which will lead to a viable, comprehensive agreement to reconstruct our social economy,” diplomatic language which essentially meant nothing.

Varoufakis is to travel to London on Feb. 1 to meet his British counterpart George Osborne as well as investors in the City before flying to Paris on Feb. 2 to meet French Finance Minister Michel Sapin and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron. Varoufakis is to meet Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan in Rome on Feb. 3.