I have been familiar with the ways of the European Union for many years, and I thought myself impervious to surprise at the extraordinary way in which Brussels imposes its will, with plain defiance of democracy and utter contempt for the opinions (and frequently the well-being) of the people.
Does it not routinely ignore the results of referenda, and tell the poor benighted voters that they must go away and vote again, until they get the right answer?
Did it not gloss over the French and Dutch NO votes on the ill-fated European Constitution, and use the disreputable device of re-naming the Constitution a “Treaty”, so skirting the need for new referenda (except in Ireland)?
Has it not twice contrived the removal of democratically elected Prime Ministers (in Greece and Italy) and replaced them with compliant EU apparatchiks?
But even so I was shocked — genuinely shocked — to read that former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis — he of the saturnine smile, the leather jackets and the Yamaha motorcycle — is facing the threat of prosecution for treason — yes, you read that right, treason — for daring to contemplate a Greek exit from the accursed euro.
Now you may object that the proposed prosecution has been initiated by private citizens in Greece, and is reportedly being considered by Greek prosecutors. But it stretches credulousness to breaking point to assume that there has been no input from Brussels. The Eurocrats are so obsessively committed to their disastrous currency misadventure that they cannot bear to see any challenge — and the man who dares to challenge must be brought down, and humiliated.
You may also object that Varoufakis had, as reported, “secretly planned to create a parallel payment system”, which may sound ominous and ultra vires. But while you may plan such a system in secret, you can hardly introduce it in secret. And since such a plan was likely to lead to Grexit, the Greek Finance Minister would have rightly felt a duty to keep such a plan secret, until it had government approval and could be announced and implemented.
I would paraphrase “secretly planned to create etc etc” as “privately weighed up the implications of developing a New Drachma, which could have become the national Greek currency if Greece had been forced (temporarily or permanently) out of the eurozone”.
And I would argue equally that with Greece in the situation it was facing (and will doubtless face again), the Greek Finance Minister had not merely the right, but also the positive duty, in his country’s vital interests, to evaluate all options, including Grexit, and would have been derelict in his duty had he failed to do so. Arguably treason against the state would have consisted not in evaluating a new currency, but in failing to do so.
I was pleased to see at least that Prime Minister Tsipras stated publicly that he knew of this plan. So if Varoufakis is guilty, presumably so is the Prime Minister and by implication the government — and possibly the population that elected it.
Let us hope we hear no more of this nonsense. Who will serve as a government minister in an EU member-state if they can face treason charges merely for doing their duty in a thorough and diligent way, for anticipating problems and designing solutions?
I would disagree with Varoufakis on a wide range of issues, but he was right in this. And sooner or later Greece will indeed have to leave the eurozone, and create a new currency, and they sooner they do so, the sooner this Greek tragedy will be on the way to a solution.
Roger Helmer is a British Member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands, and head of the UKIP delegation in Europe. This article first appeared on his personal blog and is cross-posted with permission.