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Yanis Varoufakis tried to save Greece from the austerity imposed by the liberal establishment. Then he wanted to save the whole EU.
Today, the former Greek finance minister, motorcyclist and leather jacket, turned to Italy.
“If there ever was a time, it’s now,” the economist told POLITICO in an interview at the Italian launch of his pan-European political party, Mera25.
The radical left party was launched in the incongruous setting of the ancient Roman aquarium, a 19th-century exhibition space and cultural center, with cameos from celebrities from Mera25, Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, and the composer Brian Eno, who connected via video link.
As a member of the left-leaning Greek government led by Syriza in 2015, Varoufakis fought the so-called troika and European-imposed austerity. As the Greek government finally capitulated, Varoufakis left the government and founded a cross-border far-left political movement. Besides Waters and Eno, supporters include activist Julian Assange, filmmaker Ken Loach, philosopher Noam Chomsky and Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson.
Varoufakis clearly enjoys star connections. “I just received [Eno’s] last album with a dedication to me,” he reveals.
One would expect a so-called “erratic Marxist” to be appalled by recent elections in Italy, which sacked a government led by Giorgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy. But while he worries about the possible ramification for minorities, Varoufakis believes the result shows that the time has come to radically rethink Europe’s political and economic system.
The vote shows that Italian voters, rejecting decades of centre-left and centre-right governments that have accepted ‘crushing’ European policies and structures that have kept Italy down, are ready to try anything, he says -he.
But since Meloni has also made what Varoufakis calls “a Faustian pact” with the establishment, signaling that she will work with Europe and be loyal to NATO, in order to gain power, she will inevitably be unable to hold on. his electoral promises, he maintains. . The resulting void will “create space for a transnational progressive party offering something completely different” in the heart of Europe.
The need for a transnational policy is demonstrated by the global nature of recent crises.
“The debt crisis, the banking crisis, the climate crisis, geopolitics, energy, war, health,” says Varoufakis. “None of this can be settled at the national state level.”
Mera25’s policies, decided by its 150,000 members in a Europe-wide ballot, include an EU federal republic and the replacement of energy markets with a common green grid.
If Varoufakis succeeded, NATO would be dead and buried. “[It] does not have an existing business. It is an affront to the idea of the European Union entrusting our security to a foreign power with interests contrary to ours,” he said.
Instead, Europe should be responsible for its own defense, with its own army, he insists. Until Europe abandons NATO “we will be completely subject to the interests of the United States”
Sending more weapons to Ukraine is “the definition of insanity” and the sanctions “are a joke”, he said. Russia’s war chest, supported by high energy prices, has only grown since the invasion of Ukraine. “If you want to massage your conscience for moral reasons, I can understand that, but sanctions don’t work and never will.”
Although Italians are unlikely to see the need for another hard left party, Varoufakis’ views may resonate with some of the Italian electorate. A majority of Italians oppose sending arms to Ukraine and opposing sanctions, a position that should find further support as energy costs fuel resentment over the winter.
Varoufakis acknowledges that Mera25 has yet to take off.
He says his initial run on cross-border politics, a movement meant to unite existing progressive forces, called Diem 25, failed, due to the fragmented and parochial nature of the left. Months of trying to unite the Italian left ahead of the 2019 European elections have made him lose the will to live, he said. After a year and a half of failure, he decided to focus on a party that would run for election instead.
He narrowly missed being elected to the European Parliament in Germany, but considers his entry into the Greek parliament a victory, especially since the party was “brutally attacked” by former comrades from the left-wing Syriza party. “They tried to eradicate us because we were wasting the broth for them.”
Varoufakis reflects, “We’re not succeeding by any means, but we have to start somewhere… We’re not trying to maximize votes so much as starting a conversation. … We want to show what transnational politics looks like.