NEW YORK – Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis announced on November 25 his intention to run for European Parliament in Berlin since the seat he’s aiming for is German, Time magazine reported. The European Parliament elections are set for May 2019 and EU citizens are allowed to run in any EU country.
Just three years ago, Varoufakis, 57, resigned in Berlin during negotiations with EU leaders, Time reported, adding that he stood “next to a banner reading ‘European Spring’” during the announcement of his run and “knows many Germans still blame him and his country for the European debt crisis.”
Varoufakis said, “We live in a disintegrating Europe. A depressed Greece, an Italy taken over by racist populists, and a divided German society,” Time reported adding that “in 2014, the last time European lawmakers were elected, anti-EU parties did well. Five years later, following the European migrant crisis and the election of far-right lawmakers into national parliaments across Europe, they are projected to do even better.”
In 2016, Varoufakis founded the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) with members numbering 100,000 it is poised for its first elections, Time reported, noting “the bright-red cover of its manifesto carries a simple message: ‘The EU will be democratized. Or it will disintegrate!’”
DiEM25 plans to take on the far-right, including Matteo Salvini in Italy and Marine Le Pen in France, as well as those in power from the center-right such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Varoufakis told Time before he announced his run, “DiEM25, from the first day, has been designed to fight on two fronts simultaneously, fighting against the incompetent, authoritarian establishment and the authoritarian, racist right wing.”
In his six months as Finance Minister, Varoufakis “clashed with the EU over plans to saddle Greece with deep cuts to public spending in order to pay off government debt,” Time reported, as he “argued that level of austerity would crash the Greek economy and make the repayment of its debt near-impossible.”
The Greek public agreed with Varoufakis, “rejecting the austerity-focused bailout conditions proposed by the EU and IMF at a referendum in mid-2015,” Time reported, noting that “Greece subsequently accepted the conditions anyway, which Varoufakis characterized as a ‘betrayal’ after resigning his position.”
The experience is connected to his new movement. He told Time, “I was very clear behind closed doors when I was addressing the powers that be in Europe. This was my warning: You may not like us, but we are democrats. If you crash us because you don’t like us, the next force that you will have to reckon with are the racists, the xenophobes that are rising up in Greece, Italy, everywhere. And those people are intent on breaking Europe.”
Varoufakis sees his prediction coming true, he told Time, adding that “European institutions… succeeded in temporarily propping up a failing financial system by bailing out creditors, while crippling populations across Europe with austerity.”
He blames the economic policies of the European establishment for the rise of the far right. “They appear as foes, but they are accomplices. Salvini needs Merkel and Juncker. Because their policies and their incompetence are creating the discontent that is feeding Salvini,” Varoufakis told Time.
Candidates from the European Spring movement are running in eight EU countries with parties belonging to the movement in Germany, Greece, Italy, France, Poland, Denmark, Portugal and Spain, Time reported.
In response to a comment by Hillary Clinton about Europe closing its borders to migrants “in order to stem the tide of populism,” Varoufakis responded, “The reason why populism and the alt-right are rising is not because of the border policy. It is because we combine misanthropy towards foreigners with economic policies that generate massive depravity within our own populations. And then the clueless liberal establishment, like Clinton, try to explain the inexplicable, because they do not want to accept that their policies were the ones that created the discontent that populists are exploiting,” Time reported.
He said, “Greece was used as a dystopian laboratory in which policies were devised that were then transplanted to Germany—and the German people are the victims of this. The fact that I’m going to be standing in Germany is a statement. We want to signal the toxic fallacy of the narrative that Europe is at the mercy of a north-south clash between countries like Germany and Greece,” Time reported.
“We want a united Europe, we want a progressive Europe,” Varoufakis said, Time reported, adding that “he opposed Britain’s exit from the EU, precisely because he thinks it’s a better idea to attempt to reform an institution from within than from the outside.”
“We consider populism to be a scourge and to be toxic. Populists, in my understanding of the term going back to the 1930s, are demagogues who mine the deposits of anger in the souls of victims of capitalism. They invest in that anger, they turbocharge that anger, they turn it against the Other, whether the Other is the Jew or the Syrian or the Mexican,” he said, Time reported.
Besides the anti-populism, DiEM25’s agenda includes “bolstering green investment, ending austerity, and strengthening financial regulations,” Time reported, adding that Varoufakis calls the plan the “New Deal for Europe.”
He is not however, completely stepping away from politics in Greece, Time reported, noting that he “has his eye on the Greek elections” in 2019 and when the date is set, “he will step aside from the European parliament to run for a second stint in the legislature of his home country.”