BRUSSELS—Even if the policy talk can be deadening, the main protagonists in the Greek bailout drama have brought their big, sometimes oversized, personalities to the negotiating table.
Here is a look at the key players involved.
Alexis Tsipras, Greek Prime Minister
With a soft spot for revolutionary legend Che Guevara, the 40-year-old is fighting to keep his country solvent and in the euro. He led his radical Syriza Party to power in January with firebrand socialist promises to end budget austerity. He has had to compromise on those vows in the hope of getting a bailout deal, but remains popular at home. In the family picture of European leaders, you’ll recognize him as the one who refuses to wear a tie.
Yanis Varoufakis, Greek Finance Minister
The motorbike-riding Greek academic with the tough Bruce Willis looks has been the face of Greek defiance. The 54-year-old economics professor is notoriously blunt in negotiations and was sidelined last month in bailout talks as the government struggled to reach a compromise with creditors. If Tsipras has the open collar, Varoufakis’s style signifier is the shirt hanging loosely over his trousers.
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor
Surefooted over almost a decade as German leader, she is affectionately called “Mutti,” or Mama. With her finger on the purse to keep the euro-family’s budget in shape, she has been the central figure during the debt crisis, demanding that countries carry out tough reforms and budget cuts. The 60-year-old doesn’t like taking risks and appears keen to keep Greece in the euro. Greeks, though, have reviled her insistence on austerity and Merkel appeared on posters in Athens at one stage with a Hitler mustache.
Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director
The silver-haired Grande Dame of international finance leads one of Greece’s biggest creditors. Lagarde needs a deal that puts Greece’s finances on a sound footing to show the International Monetary Fund didn’t waste its money on Greece—which is still richer than many developing countries represented on the IMF board. As a member years ago of France’s synchronized swimming team, Lagarde learned to hold her breath for long periods while doing acrobatics. A deal on Greece would be a chance to exhale.
Mario Draghi, European Central Bank President
The guy keeping the Greek banks alive with emergency credit. Draghi could turn off the tap if Greece does not look salvageable, and he could use that to push the Greeks to accept a deal. Yet pulling the plug is really the last thing he wants to do. Draghi has been one of the most forceful actors during Europe’s crisis, promising in 2012 to do “whatever it takes” to rescue the euro—a metaphorical bazooka to scare away speculators. The bank’s massive stimulus package launched in March has helped keep European markets stable through Greece’s new crisis.
Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President
Fond of greeting his diplomatic guests with bear hugs and kisses, Juncker has turned into a go-between par excellence. As head of the European Union’s executive branch, he is a master of compromise politics and backroom financial deals. He is a financial crisis veteran, having chaired eurozone finance meetings for eight years and led Luxembourg for almost two decades.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Eurogroup President
The Dutch finance minister took over from Juncker last year as head of the eurozone finance meetings and is as straight-laced as the Luxembourger was easygoing. His body language when facing the flamboyant Varoufakis has often been icily cold. Then again, he’s the one who has to make sure a Greek deal adds up. When it comes to style, appearances can deceive. His wife Gerda says he likes to garden during weekends and feed his pigs.