New Greek Finance Minister made anti-English quip in Londonderry

The new Greek Finance Minister made an anti-English quip to applause and laughter at the Sinn Féin Ard Fhéis in Londonderry in March before accusing Brussels and Frankfurt of forcing Greece to pay out on dodgy bets placed by European banks and investors on the erstwhile PASOK and New Democracy Governments.

The Oxford-educated Euclid Tsakalotos, who took over from Yanis Varoufakis this week and is charged with negotiating his way out of the debt crisis now crippling Greece, was invited to speak at the Sinn Féin conference in the Millennium Forum in March in his capacity then as the Alternate Minister of International Economic Affairs in Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza-led coalition Government in Athens.

Outgoing Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, left, speaks as the new Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos listens to him during a hand over ceremony in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Following Sunday's referendum the Greece and its membership in Europe's joint currency faced an uncertain future Monday, with the country under pressure to restart bailout talks with creditors as soon as possible after Greeks resoundingly rejected the notion of more austerity in exchange for aid. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Outgoing Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, left, speaks as the new Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos listens to him during a hand over ceremony in Athens, Monday, July 6, 2015. Following Sunday's referendum the Greece and its membership in Europe's joint currency faced an uncertain future Monday, with the country under pressure to restart bailout talks with creditors as soon as possible after Greeks resoundingly rejected the notion of more austerity in exchange for aid. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

He told the conference: “It is an honour and a privilege to address your conference today. I start by apologising for my English accent but in mitigating circumstances I am married to a Celt.

“Our peoples have a lot in common. Indeed for most Greeks it is no exaggeration to say that the Irish are honorary southerners. Please accept the warm greetings of the first, for many years, government of the left in Europe and of Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of the coalition Government and leader of Syriza.”

Mr Tsakalotos went on to align Syriza with Sinn Féin and other hard left European parties such as Podemos in Spain.

He also claimed that the Greek bail out was designed to pay for the stupid investments in former Greek governments by banks and investors in the Bankenviertel, La Défense and the City.

“Greece has had the biggest per capita fiscal adjustment of any economy since the crisis began, hardly special treatment when you consider that the bail out was more to serve northern banks than to serve southern peoples but you should also know that the arguments of such governments have nothing to do with their view of Greeks,” he said.

He claimed European leaders were refusing to countenance a debt relief deal with Syriza because it would show Die Linke, Front de gauche, L’Altra Europa, Podemos and Sinn Féin were right.

“Their fear of Syriza is more to do with their fear of the aspirations of their own people for social justice, of socially inclusive development, it is you that they fear not us,” he said.

He was also intransigent when it came to the suggestion that Greece could implement the reforms asked of it whilst paying off its debts.

“We will be seeking to negotiate a new deal to address Greece’s non-sustainable debt. No economy, which has lost a quarter of its GDP, has 25 per cent of its population unemployed and over fifty per cent of its young people unemployed and has one third of its population facing extreme poverty can be expected to pay its debt with a succession of years of very high primary surpluses.”