Greek Finance minister lobs stark warning into Portugal’s court

With the European stand-off against Greece still being firmly upheld in Brussels, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has upped the ante with something of a firecracker: “If Greece leaves the euro, who will be next? Portugal?”

It’s the “elephant in the room” that this far European leaders are trying to ignore.

But Varoufakis is undeterred. If his country leaves the euro, he told Italian radio station RAI on Sunday, the whole euro currency will start unravelling.

To put it in his words, everything will collapse like a house of cards.

“The euro is fragile,” the unorthodox 53-year-old economist and author maintained. “It is like when we build a house of cards. If we take one card that is Greece, the whole thing will collapse.”

Varoufakis was in Rome where he had been trying to get his Italian equivalent Pier Carlo Padoan onboard in support of Greece’s bid for debt renegotiation. This far, the stand-off instigated by Brussels’ refusal to play ball appears to remain, although Varoufakis claims this is all window-dressing.

Behind the scenes “the discussion was different”, he told reporters.

“Italian politicians, we cannot say from which major party, have approached us to say they support us but cannot say it out loud because Italy is also at risk of bankruptcy and fears the reaction of Germany,” he said, stressing that Italy’s debt is also “unsustainable”.

For now, there are no plans for Varoufakis to visit Portugal in his bid to get ailing economies on-side.

Indeed, Portugal’s coalition has shown itself to have little regard for the Greeks’ stand, with Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho reiterating the opinion coming down from Brussels.

Nonetheless, newspapers here and abroad are now reporting that Greece’s ongoing dialogue with Russia could nudge Europe’s power-markers towards some form of compromise.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]

Photo: Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis
Photo by: EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS