Van Overtveldt: “It’s all very vague”

In an interview on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De Ochtend’, the Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt (Flemish nationalist) has outlined the Belgian Government’s position on the Eurogroup’s decision to halt negotiations with the Greek government until after Sunday’s referendum.

Mr Van Overtvelt told listeners that the Europgroup’s decision was unanimous.
"First of all because the Greek government has said itself that it wants a mandate from the people”. Mr Van Overtveldt added that it the Greek government feels that it can only acquire a mandate through a referendum; it clearly doesn’t feel that it has a mandate now.
A second reason for waiting until after the referendum is that it is not yet clear what the question the Greek government will ask the people in the referendum.

"We don’t know what proposal the government will put before the people. The Greek government talks about the proposals that the institutions have put to them, but these proposals have never been scrutinised during the negotiations”, The Finance Minister said.
"A lot of proposals have been doing the rounds over the past few weeks, but there has not been a coherent set of proposals on the table about which the Greek government could say to its people ‘this is what is being asked of us’.”

Lacking in credibility

The Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said that if the Greeks vote “yes” on Sunday, the Greek government will be bound to adhere to any suggestions, whatever they might be, made by the Eurogroup. Mr Van Overtveldt says that Mr Varoufakis’ position “lacks credibility”.

"A government that offers unswathing resistance to a set of measures, but then goes on to apply them enthusiastically after the people have voted “yes”. Experience with other countries has taught us that a government in that situation never gives the full 100%”.

Mr Van Overtvelt added that a “no” vote will strengthen the position of the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

"We don’t want to bring them to their knees"

Mr Van Overtveldt denies that Europe has been too harsh towards Greece and that it wants to bring the Greeks to their knees.
"The aim is to get Greece back on track and to offer the Greek people the prospect of prosperity and jobs”, Mr Van Overtveldt said.

The Finance Minister denies that the conditions attached to the support programme for Greece is responsible for the country’s decline.

"There is a big part of the programme that the previous Greek government didn’t carry out. Reforms to the taxation system is a good example. The efficiency of the tax collection system in Greece is still extremely poor.”

Mr Van Overtveldt concluded by saying that although there was a lot of mistrust between the Eurozone Finance Ministers and the Greek government, “Everyone is prepared to start again with a clean sheet after the referendum” on condition that the Greeks are “prepared to play the game by assuming their responsibility and respecting agreements that have been made”.