Former Greek Finance Minister and blogger Supremo Yanis Varoufakis is blaming the US and EU and banks for Greece’s ills and ongoing economic crisis, world press reports say.
US Foreign Policy Got in Way of Helping Greece
Huffpost Politics/Daniel Marans
The United States did not pressure Germany more heavily to give Greece debt relief because it needed Germany’s cooperation in higher-priority foreign policy matters, according to a former Greek finance minister.
Yanis Varoufakis, the ex-cabinet official who became famous as the face of Greek defiance in the first half of 2015, said the United States, like the International Monetary Fund, believed Greece’s European creditors must provide the country with debt relief if it was ever to regain financial independence.
High-ranking officials in Germany, which is Greece’s largest sovereign lender, remain reluctant to reduce the Mediterranean nation’s debts.
But Varoufakis said the United States ultimately did little to back its views by putting pressure on Germany.
“They would occasionally offer a kind comment about the need for debt restructure, but beyond that, absolutely, radically nothing,” he said. “And that has not changed.”
Varoufakis, a prolific and outspoken progressive economist, was in Washington on Wednesday to promote his new book, And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe’s Crisis And America’s Economic Future.
Since resigning under pressure in July, Varoufakis has founded the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, a left-leaning initiative promoting a more democratic European Union.
He argued on Wednesday that the United States’ inaction on Greece stemmed from a belief that Greece was “in the sphere of influence of Germany.”
“I believe that the United States delineated different problems in the European periphery and decided to put all its eggs in other baskets and not in any basket that contained Greece or the eurozone,” he added.
Intervening was not worth the risk of jeopardizing German unity with the U.S. against Russian meddling in Ukraine, as well as collaboration on the U.S.’s agenda in Libya and Syria, according to the ex-finance minister.
“Let’s say that it came to my attention that the Ukraine, Libya, Syria were higher in the list of priorities of Washington,” he concluded.
US “Ponzi Austerity” Scheme Imposed by US, EU Bled Greece
The former finance minister of Greece says the European Union and international financial institutions are imposing unjust “ponzi austerity” on his country, while banks rake in billions and the Greek people suffer.
For years, Greece has faced enormous economic hardship. In the wake of the 2008 Great Recession, the country plunged into a debt crisis.
In return for large loans, the Troika — which consists of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — has demanded that Greece impose harsh austerity measures, cutting social services, slashing government programs and privatizing state assets.
Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister and longtime economics professor, says Europe is “confusing butchery for surgery” by continuing to demand crippling austerity policies, also known as structural reforms.
“Greece is being trampled upon,” he said in an interview on Democracy Now. Varoufakis accused the Troika of trying “to turn Greece into a desert” and condemned the past three bailouts as money-making opportunities for German and French banks.
He also slammed the Obama administration for continuing to support this “cruel, self-defeating, irrational, inefficient, mind-blowingly inane austerity.”
The effects of austerity on Greece have been nothing short of catastrophic.
From 2008 to 2013, Greeks became on average 40 percent poorer. More than one-third of Greeks, 36 percent of the population, are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Poverty is worse in Greece than it is in Latvia, and among the worst in the eurozone, surpassed only by Bulgaria and Romania.
One out of every four Greeks is unemployed, the highest unemployment rate in the E.U. Among Greeks under age 25, the problem is even worse, with roughly one out of every two people unemployed.
Despite this dire situation, in negotiations this week, international creditors demanded that Greece impose further austerity measures. The International Monetary Fund is ordering the Greek government to cut pensions and eliminate income-tax exemptions.
Varoufakis Returns to Public Life More Hopeful
Just a year ago the eyes of progressives all over the world were turned toward Greece. That which rarely happens had transpired in the Greek electoral system: a left-wing party with a strong ideological position was elected to power.
The Syriza Party, which had upheld a staunchly anti-austerity platform, was propelled by the collective despair of the Greek populace into a landslide victory.
The challenge of Syriza, and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, lay in navigating between the opposing pressures of austerity-weary Greeks on the one hand, and the troika of creditors (the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund) on the other. Part of international fascination with this European moment was based on the hope that if Greece could thumb its nose at neoliberal capitalism, there might be positive repercussions throughout Europe and even elsewhere.
At the center of this battle was an unlikely figure: Yanis Varoufakis, a distinguished economist and author who was teaching at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin when he decided to run as a member of Syriza for a seat in the Greek Parliament. Varoufakis, who gave up his UT position for politics, has practiced his craft all over the world, including at Cambridge University in England; the University of Sydney; the University of Glasgow, Scotland; and Athens University, Greece.
He garnered the highest number of votes of any Syriza member in the Greek election and then went on to be appointed by Tsipras as finance minister, the most important position in the Cabinet given the circumstances.