Speaking of an EU coup in Greece, Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has warned Europe will no longer exist as a monetary union if it fails to reform. In a recent interview he also accused the architects of the new Greek bailout of planning its deliberate failure in order to throw Greece out of the Euro.
The interview with Yanis Varoufakis was originally published in the Spanish newspaper El Pais. However, he has now released a complete transcript of the interview on his own blog giving a fuller picture of what was said. His most explosive criticism was aimed at the treatment of Greece by the Troika (the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission):
“This was nothing but a coup. In 1967 there were the tanks and in 2015 there were the banks. But the result is the same in the sense of having overthrown the Government or having forced it to overthrow itself.”
Asked whether he felt his brief spell in office achieved anything of note, Varoufakis replied “absolutely”, pointing out to the interviewer that’s why they were speaking to him. He continued:
“There was a government that was elected to negotiate hard on the basis of a line of argument that wasn’t considered acceptable in the eurozone. At the same time, history necessitated it. So you have an unstoppable force striking an immovable object. The immovable logic is the irrationality of the Eurogroup and the unstoppable force is history. The result is a great deal of heat and noise… Hopefully there will be some light too.”
The interviewer suggests to Varoufakis that the Troika will still be operating in Greece in 2050 when his grandchildren are adults. Varoufakis is sure they won’t be:
“No, they won’t. Because this agreement doesn’t have a future. It is continuing the extending and pretending charade: extending the crisis with new unsustainable loans, and pretending that this solves the problem… It can’t go on forever. You can fool the people and the markets for a short period of time, but in the end you can’t fool them for fifty years.”
This leads to the starkest warning in the interview:
“Either Europe changes, and this process is replaced by something more democratic, and durable, manageable, humanistic. Or Europe will no longer exist as a Monetary Union.”
Varoufakis reserves special criticism for Germany’s Federal Minister of Finance, Wolfgang Schäuble, someone he sees as being uniquely destructive. Responding to a question about the prospects for a third bailout, due to be concluded in August, he replied:
“This is a program designed to fail. And so it will fail. It’s not easy for an architect to build a solid building, but it’s easy for him or her to construct a building that will collapse. Anyone can do it. It was planned to fail, because, let’s face it: Wolfgang Schäuble is not interested in an agreement that works. He categorically stated that he wanted to redesign the eurozone and part of that redesign is that Greece should be thrown out of the eurozone.”
The unorthodox economist also has uncompromising views about the intentions of the Troika, seeing them as a group on the march across Europe looking to control every national budget:
“You can see that there is a plan being implemented and which is in progress. Today we have read that Schauble wants to sideline the Commission and to create something like a Budget commissioner who oversees the ‘rules’ that strike down national budgets, even if a country is not under a program. In other words: to turn every country into a program country!
“…Schauble’s plan is to put the Troika everywhere, in Madrid too, but especially in Paris! Paris is the larger prize. It’s the final destination of the Troika. Grexit is used to create the fear necessary to force Paris, Rome and Madrid to acquiesce.”
Challenged about the rhetoric he used during the negotiations with the Eurogroup, Varoufakis defenced his turn of phrase, specifically the colourful “fiscal waterboarding”, saying:
“I am very proud of this term. It is a precise, an accurate description of what has been happening for years now. What is waterboarding? You take a subject, you push his head in the water until he suffocates but, at some point, before death comes you stop. You pull the head out just in time, before asphyxiation is complete, you allow the subject to take a few deep breaths, and then you push the head again in the water. You repeat until he… confesses.
“Fiscal waterboarding, on the other hand, is obviously not physical, it’s fiscal. But the idea is the same and it is exactly what happened to successive Greek governments since 2010.”
Ultimately Varoufakis does not believe his time in office was wasted, nor does he think the eventual acceptance of a third bailout based on austerity means Greece has failed despite the rejection referendum:
“For those who say to me we failed, these six months were in vain, I say “No we did not fail”. Now we have a debate in Europe which it’s not just about Greece, it’s about the continent. A debate we would have not had otherwise. A debate which is worth Greece’s, our continent’s, weight in gold.”
For Varoufakis what was important was that he stepped up to start the fight, as he says: “The worst enemy of democracy is citizens who say this is a terrible system but I’m not prepared to do anything to change it.”