Greece’s former “rock-star” finance minister was back in the limelight on Tuesday as he launched a pan-European political movement aimed at saving the EU from “disintegration”.
Yanis Varoufakis, whose tussles with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble last year embodied Greece’s bid to break free from punishing austerity, chose the Volksbuehne Theatre in Berlin to launch The Democracy in Europe Movement 2015 (DiEM25).
Its aim, he said, is to push for greater democracy and transparency in the European Union, which he described as a “completely democracy-free zone”.
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The former finance minister savaged EU leaders for their “spectacular failure” to deal with the continent’s refugee crisis, “with the possible exception of [Germany’s] Angela Merkel”, his erstwhile adversary during the Greek debt crisis.
Varoufakis, who famously accused Greece’s creditors of submitting the country to “fiscal waterboarding”, has said that his experience of Eurozone finance meetings left him with the conclusion that the EU was fundamentally undemocratic.
Instead of pointing an accusatory finger at Germany, on Tuesday he said the European power had a central and positive role to play.
“We’ve chosen Berlin precisely because nothing can change in a progressive direction without the full participation of Germany in our European endeavours,” Varoufakis told a news conference in the packed theatre auditorium.
Forum or party?
Varoufakis quit as finance minister last July after refusing to accept the terms of a third bailout for Greece that imposed further austerity measures.
Drawing parallels between the Europe of the 1930s and the present day, Varoufakis told reporters the continent was stuck in a vicious circle of bad policy and ruled by “authoritarian technocrats”.
He called for more European integration, but also demanded sovereignty for each nation state. Varoufakis declined to provide any policy proposals and made clear his new movement would mainly be a forum for sharing ideas.
He did not say whether he hoped to turn it into a party and contest elections.