'Might as well have sung Swedish anthem': Varoufakis on euro talks

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Athens (AFP) - Yanis Varoufakis said in an interview about the reasons for his surprise resignation as Greek finance minister that whenever he tried "to engage in economic arguments" with his eurozone colleagues, all he got was "blank stares".

"You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem -– you'd have got the same reply," Varoufakis told the New Statesman magazine as he summed up five months of tense talks with his 18 peers to secure a new bailout.

"There was no engagement at all. It was not even annoyance, it was as if one had not spoken."

The outspoken economist, who clashed repeatedly with Greece's creditors during the talks over a debt rescue, announced his resignation a day after the Syriza-led government won the backing of 61 percent of voters in a July 5 referendum on rejecting creditors' bailout terms.

At the time, he said his departure would help Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reach a deal with European leaders to stop Athens going bust and crashing out of the eurozone.

But he told the British weekly he relinquished his portfolio after being marginalised within the government over his plot to fight back against the European Central Bank.

He said was outnumbered in the Greek government's inner cabinet by two to four over a three-stage plan.

Varoufakis said he had proposed issuing euro-denominated IOUs, applying a "haircut" to Greek bonds issued to the European Central Bank in 2012, and taking control of the Bank of Greece.

"This was the triptych, the three things, which I thought we should respond with if the ECB shut down our banks," Varoufakis told the New Statesman.

"The referendum gave us an amazing boost, one that would have justified this type of energetic response against the ECB," he added. But he failed to convince Tsipras to follow suit.

The interview was conducted just before Tsipras on Monday morning finally agreed a eurozone bailout deal after marathon 17-hour talks, requiring the Greek parliament to approve a raft of market-friendly measures in the coming days.

Offering more insights into this year's eurozone squabbling, Varoufakis said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble dominated "completely and utterly" the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers.

"It is all like a very well-tuned orchestra and he is the director," Varoufakis said.

"Only the French finance minister [Michel Sapin] has made noises that were different from the German line, and those noises were very subtle... the French FM in the end would always fold and accept."

Varoufakis, who spent Friday with his family instead of voting in parliament to authorise fresh negotiations between Tsipras and the country's creditors, said he was relieved to no longer be part of the government.

"I'm feeling on top of the world -- I no longer have to live through this hectic timetable, which was absolutely inhuman, just unbelievable. I was on two hours sleep every day for five months," Varoufakis said.

"I'm also relieved I don't have to sustain any longer this incredible pressure to negotiate for a position I find difficult to defend."

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