Europe Economy

Euclid Tsakalotos, the new 'friendly face' of Greece?


Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's fiery finance minister, has led the sensitive debt negotiations with euro zone lenders since the left-wing Syriza party came to power in late January – with very little concrete results.

In a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Riga, Latvia, last month, Varoufakis was reported to have frustrated other members of the Eurogroup by refusing to reach a compromise on pension and labor reforms.

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Euclid Tsakalotos
Louisa Gouliamaki I AFP I Getty Images

Following the stalled talks, Greece reshuffled its negotiating team, reining in Varoufakis, with coordination of the day-to-day efforts to strike a deal with creditors handed to Deputy Foreign minister Euclid Tsakalotos.

Tsakalotos, an Oxford University educated economist, will now lead face-to-face talks with lenders, in the hope of securing a deal, as Greece edges closer to default as its funds dries up.

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On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis and Deputy Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos met with Mario Draghi in Frankfurt

After Greece's creditors faced alienation following the seeming lack of diplomacy from Varoufakis, will Tsakalotos fare any better?

Who is he?

Born in Rotterdam, Tsakalotos studied politics, philosophy and economics at the University of Oxford, the same degree as current U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.

After graduating, he became a lecturer in economics at the University of Kent, in the south of the U.K. He later moved to Athens in the early 1990s to take up a teaching post there. He has also written and edited books on the Greek and euro zone debt crisis.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis are shown at the Greek parliament in Athens.
Alkis Konstantinidis | Reuters

Background in politics

Tsakalotos was elected as a member of Greek parliament to the hard-left Syriza party in 2012. While still a staunch opponent of austerity, the minister said that his party is not anti-reform.

"I've always said for the last six years that the euro zone is in danger from the policies of austerity. When people are poor, when there are regional differences, when there are social inequalities, fixed exchange rate systems like the monetary union are always under pressure," Tsakalotos said, speaking to CNBC in February.

"We're not a non-reformist party. We've said that we will take the reforms, the good ideas of the previous memorandum, we're going to add our own reform agenda, we're going to have prioritization, we're not populist, we've said we've got to start with our first priorities -responding to the humanitarian crisis," he said.

Will he make a difference?

Tsakalotos is thought to be a close ally of Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and the soft-spoken economist is thought to be liked by officials representing the country's creditors and the "troika" of organizations – The European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund -- that make sure Greece is sticking to the terms of its loans .

Director of Euro Area Economic Research at Daiwa Capital Markets Europe, Robert Kuenzel, said while said the reshuffle was "necessary" it may not be enough to resolve the talks.

Read MoreDeal or no deal, Greece still faces bankruptcy

"The reshuffle at the negotiating level was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the talks to ultimately succeed. While members of the (ex-)Troika have noted a recent improvement in the tone of the discussions, there are many major sticking points (pensions and labor markets, but also fiscal issues) that simply can't be papered over with friendlier faces," Kuenzel told CNBC.

"So, as far as it goes, the reshuffle is a step in the right direction," he said.

Senior economist at IHS Global Insight, Diego Iscaro said the move was not a "game changer".

"Not even the most charming negotiator will help to unlock the funds without Greece agreeing to implement the reforms demanded by its creditors," he said.