Greek charm offensive to hit Berlin and Frankfurt

Greece's new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will visit the European Central Bank in Frankfurt on Wednesday before meeting German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in Berlin on Thursday, continuing the new Greek government's burst of financial diplomacy.

Yanis Varoufakis "will be at the ECB tomorrow," a bank spokesman said on Tuesday, but declining to provide any details regarding the timetable or agenda of the visit or whether Varoufakis would meet ECB chief Mario Draghi.

The ECB's policy-setting governing council is scheduled to meet on Wednesday afternoon, the spokesman added.

Sources have told AFP that the meeting will vote on whether to keep open emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) to Greek banks.

Meanwhie, the Wall Street Journal reported that Varoufakis will travel to Berlin on Thursday to meet his German counterpart, for whom he expressed “great respect”.

“I only entered politics three weeks ago,” Varoufakis said. “Therefore, I remain optimistic on the possibility of an agreement.”

"We could envision an end to the Greek crisis starting from June," he added.

Varoufakis already paid a visit to his British counterpart George Osborne in London on Monday as he seeks to build support for a renegotiation of his country's €240-billion bailout.

And he was in Rome on Tuesday looking for support for his plans to make Greece's debt burden bearable.

SEE ALSO: Greeks in Rome to drum up support over debt

In a flurry of diplomacy, Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras phoned ECB chief Mario Draghi on Saturday and has booked meetings with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, French President Francois Hollande and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker this week.

Varoufakis has also said he feels it is "essential" to meet Schäuble, as Germany has shouldered the bulk of Greece's loans and is fiercely opposed to writing off any of that debt.

ECB holds key to saving Greece

Varoufakis hopes the ECB will continue to supply Greek banks with cash under the ELA programme while Athens battles with its European partners and creditors over the terms of its bailout.

Analysts said the ECB is, in fact, the linchpin to resolving Greece's new debt crisis and ensuring there is no so-called "Grexit" – or exit from the eurozone – that everyone fears.

The ECB's governing council must decide this week whether it will continue to allow Greece's government and banks to borrow money despite its junk-rated bonds.

If Greece is found to be in breach of its bailout conditions, special rules allowing it to continue borrowing will be cut off and the country could face a debt default.

SEE ALSO: Freeze accounts of Greek tax dodgers: Gabriel

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Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.