Mera25 cofounder Yanis Varoufakis gave a powerful speech in the Greek parliament on Tuesday, where he called out the severe neglect of key issues that the country is facing, and also gave his opinion on how the Ukraine war can reach a peaceful settlement.
Crucial parliamentary elections lie ahead this year in Greece and Yanis Varoufakis is heavily vested in them with MeRA25. However, he is deeply concerned that the major parties in the country seem to be using them as a veil to cover over the other pressing needs that the public is facing.
The co-founder of DiEM25 gave a powerful speech in the Greek parliament on Tuesday, where he called out the severe neglect of key issues that the country is facing, due to matters both within the nation itself and beyond.
Among other concerns, Varoufakis warned that over dependence on the European Union is a dangerous game, given its fractured state. He also stressed that the war in Ukraine has added a new divide between European East and West to the long existing divide between North and South.
Varoufakis’ speech on the state of the union
“2022 brought us war, it brought us high costs, it brought us a new withdrawal of democratic institutions, it brought us new hardships for the many amidst celebrations and incredible profiteering of the very few, but it also brought us close to people who are resisting, whose struggles strengthen us, who inspire us so that in 2023 we can do what we must do for the many.
“Within a short space of time – minister, ladies and gentlemen – the noise of the election battle will not allow any sober assessment of the situation in Greece and in Europe. Therefore, Mr President, allow me to offer today the assessment of MeRA25 on the situation in our country and on the situation in the European Union.
Greece and the EU – more dependent than ever
“Ladies and gentlemen, Greece has never been more dependent than it is today. Never have our private and public sectors been more deeply dependent and bankrupt in substance. At the same time, the European Union has never been more dependent and less economically viable than it is today.
“Why do I say that the Greek private and public sector is more dependent and more bankrupt than ever before? It is time for straight talk. We have a public debt of 400 billion [euros], a GDP half of that in a period of escalating interest rates, when we know that at the end of the 2020s, when the current credit card, which you Syriza people call a “cushion”, will have run out, the public sector – whoever is in power – will be forced into huge loans to make the repayments of the debt coming from 2028 onwards.
“You may say to me: ‘What do you care? Who will be alive, and who will die by the late 2020s, as long as the elections go well’.
“It is of concern though to the people out there who can no longer bear to stare into the future of their bankruptcy, who are tired of it. They even care about the serious, patient investors, foreign and Greek, who are staying away from the country, who are not investing due to what is coming at the end of the decade. If only it was just the existing debt and escalating interest rates.
“Do you know, ladies and gentlemen, what it means for a country, like Greece in particular, to have a current account deficit running at 8% per year? Let me tell you what it means. It means that the private and public sectors of the country, and all Greeks together, borrow 8% of our total income just to import what we import, without anything serious being invested in the production processes of the future, for example green hydrogen. That is why I say that Greece has never been more dependent than it is today.
“And what is your response to this reality? Nothing at all. You simply rely on the generosity of lenders, public and private lenders. You say it again and again that good old Europe has solved our problems, [that] it is backing down. For now it is backing down, under suffocating conditions, of course, for the productive base of the country. For example, we have 24% VAT in a broken country, if that is possible, “red” loans that are destroying society and transferring the wealth of small and medium-sized enterprises to the Cayman Islands, energy exchanges that are drying up whatever liquidity there is out there, of households and small and medium-sized enterprises, in favour of certain oligarchs.”
Delusions over the European Union
“This narrative, that the debt problem has been solved, is based on the delusional belief that the European Union has really solved it even when we borrow 8% of the GDP every year. The good old European Union and foreign bankers will forever support our private sector predators who turn these new loans into new paper towers while our bankrupt state pretends it is not bankrupt by subsidising the energy oligarchs, the supermarket oligarchs, those who took over our airports, Aegean, not to mention the motorways.
“But have you considered that the European Union that you rely on for loans and grants is the same European Union that this state and the private sector, before 2010, relied on for those loans and grants? Until at some point the European Union stopped lending and then we had a collapse of both the public and the private sector and of course a humanitarian crisis that continues today with new austerity in the form of price inflation, which is plaguing our people out there.
“Have you asked yourself for a moment what the situation is in the European Union on which you are relying for these loans and loans? Do you realise that Europe has never been more dependent and less sustainable than it is today? That the economic model of the European Union has collapsed? That never have both the European North and the European South been less able to promote the interests of the peoples of Europe?
“If you are interested in seeing why Europe is being defeated by the state as we speak, consider this. At some point, hopefully very soon, and I would like us all to hope so together, peace processes for the war in Ukraine will begin, whether in secret or publicly, but we hope they will begin, and in which the United States of America, perhaps China, perhaps India, will certainly take the lead. There is no possibility that this will not happen at some point. These talks, if they come to a conclusion, and you know this because Biden himself has said so, will require the European Union to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine with at least a trillion. That is the European Investment Bank’s estimate, not mine.
“A question, Minister, ladies and gentlemen: Who will represent the European Union in these talks? I hope not Mrs Von der Leyen, who represents no one. Look at the problem. We no longer even have Angela Merkel. There is no leadership in the European Union. At the moment both Mr Macron and Mr Scholz do not have the support of Poland, the Baltic countries, Finland, Sweden to represent the European Union. And at the same time, is it possible to represent the European Union when you are asking it to blow a trillion without Paris and Rome?
“That is where we end up, ladies and gentlemen of the government and the opposition, with taxes on European citizens and huge expenditure without representation of the peoples of the European Union in the forum where this funding is decided.
“Apart from being humiliating for the people of Europe, this is a huge bomb on the foundations of the European Union at a time of rising interest rates, with a European Central Bank that is under pressure today – you know this – to start selling, not to buy or not to buy, the government bonds it has already bought, and ours, with the German industrial model being kaput because of the price of energy, and of course the problems it has with China’s exports because of Washington’s new cold war policy, with Scholz proposing new European borrowing.
“Do not rejoice, ladies and gentlemen of the government, because this new European borrowing will not go into a fund that will transfer resources to deficit countries. It wants this fund to prop up the collapsing German industry with a Recovery Fund having further removed the idea of political integration from the forefront.”
Ukraine war has sparked a new European divide
“At a time like this, this humiliated, fragmented European Union, without shame, without at least someone at the helm, will be forced by Washington to pay the bills in Ukraine, to pay for reconstruction, but also to allocate a large part of the common agricultural policy funds to Ukrainian farmers. Have you ever dared to discuss this with the Greek farmers, to tell them what is to come?
“More generally, do you really think it is wise to base the future of this country on your touching belief that the outrageous debts of the Greek public and private sectors will continue in perpetuity to be supported by a European Union that the United States is forcing to dig deep into its pockets? Not to find billions, but to find trillions, with a European Union whose Central Bank is forced to restrict liquidity – ask Mrs Lagarde – a Europe in which the permanent rift between Northern and Southern Europe has now been joined by the rift between Eastern and Western Europe?
“MeRA25 was telling you before and is telling you now, in the three parties of the memorandum arc, your choice of ever greater dependence on the generosity of the European Central Bank, this permanent ‘yes to everything’, this European Union, is an existential danger for our country.
“Do you remember, in the midst of a pandemic, when we, MeRA25, were the only party to analyse the reasons why the money from the Recovery Fund would not only go to the oligarchs, but would offer nothing Europe-wide in the cause of fiscal and political union?
“Do you remember when we, as MeRA25, proposed things that would have given real breathing space not only to our own people, but also to German workers? Do you remember, for example, the 2,000 euros that we proposed for each family, as Biden and Trump had done, which would have been paid for directly by the European Central Bank, or the Eurobond issued by the European Central Bank, with which we proposed that a substantial part of national public debt across Europe, not just Greek debt, would be converted into European debt?
“Today, at least behind closed doors, even your bosses in Brussels and Berlin agree with what we are saying now, with what you have just heard. They admit that those proposals would have been beneficial, unlike what they did with the Recovery Fund. They are, of course, coached in these mea culpas by your bosses in Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt and Berlin. They even throw in a mea culpa, since they have done a great deal of harm to the people of Europe, as long as it costs the oligarchs who pull their strings nothing, of course.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the only way to prevent these crimes against the many, for which they then apologise is a veto. Without a veto in the European Councils, with the ‘yes to everything’ Greece will become less and less viable within a European Union that will also become less and less viable. [This is] exactly what has happened. We were saying this.
“For this proposal of ours to veto the European Councils, only God knows what you shot at us, what imaginative ways you found to demonise us until Kyriakos Mitsotakis came along. And forgetting the constant trope that only conspiracy theorists and anti-Europeans talk about vetoing the European Union, what did Kyriakos Mitsotakis do? He vetoed the European Union in favour of Alafouzos, of course, Vardinoyannis and the other forces of the shipowner’s world.
“He vetoed things that would be good for many people here in Greece, many people in Germany, in Italy, in Spain and even in the Netherlands. You vetoed it once and that was in favour of the most parasitic rent-seekers, many of whom not only don’t live in Greece, they don’t even live in the European Union especially after Brexit, we know where they live, in London,” he said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in this unpredictable world, one thing we can predict is that the worsening of the European crisis is here, that the European centres of power know this, that the next Greek coalition government will have to manage the tragic consequences of this worsening situation with a new plundering of the majority of Greeks and that the only winners will be the same local and foreign oligarchy that is currently profiting from inflation and the vulgar exploitation of small and medium-sized enterprises and wage earners.
“Faced with this bleak prospect, we at MeRA25 have proposed a dialogue with you, who profess to be progressive. We did not propose it to you because we have no confidence in you, do not be confused.
“We proposed it out of respect for the progressive people who follow you today. You have chosen to close this door to this dialogue, referring us to after the election, that is, when we can only hand out the comfy seats and the cars. We are not interested in that. You know that.
“…[T]he people out there demand this voice in Parliament to name the oligarchs, to put forward realistic, redemptive, immediately implementable solutions against the oligarchic policies that you will again justify by saying that they are European requirements and therefore one-way streets.
“It wants a party that will argue in this House, as it has done for so long, for a realistic vision that is different from your dystopian vision of a dependent, desolate Greece within an increasingly reactionary, more fragmented, more warlike and dependent on NATO and Washington Europe.
“It wants a party that keeps alive the hope that Parliament can be useful for our people, not just for those who sell out hope for an officio.
“So Happy New Year especially to you out there who may be watching and listening. I am sure that 2023 will be a pleasant surprise, not because the crisis will heal itself, but because the people out there will prove that they are not in the pocket of those who plunder them and at the same time are being told that the realistic alternative to capitulation by plundering them is an illusion.