Yanis Varoufakis claims European democracy was 'poisoned'
A fresh row broke out between the UK and EU this week after the bloc’s most senior official suggested Britain had banned all COVID-19 exports. , the President of the , wrongly claimed the UK had put an “outright ban” on vaccines produced within Britain. The move threatened to reopen tensions witnessed last month after Brussels threatened to block vaccines produced on the continent leaving for the UK.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has since written to Mr Michel and accused him of publishing false information, according to reports.
The charge made by the EU is almost a mirror to that made by European Commission President , who took aim at the UK’s vaccination effort and briefly passed sweeping legislation, triggering Article 16 of the Brexit deal.
Brussels’ critics said the episode was an indicator of the EU’s protectionism, while the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom, warned against such “vaccine nationalism” as it could result in a “protracted recovery” from the pandemic.
It isn’t the first time the EU has been accused of interfering with a country’s internal processes.
Yanis Varoufakis, a vocal critic of the bloc, served as Greece’s finance minister in 2015, having then recently come into power with Greece’s Syriza Party.
It was the first time that the Coalition of the Radical Left won a legislative election.
Later that year, Mr Varoufakis, during a , claimed he had been told his party’s fresh victory, and the direction it planned on taking Greece, could not interfere with existing EU financial commitments in the country.
This was as Greece continued to pay back money it borrowed from the European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the 2008 financial crash.
Mr Varoufakis said: “Earlier this year, while I was representing Greece – the newly elected Greek government – in the Eurogroup as its finance minister, I was told in no uncertain terms that our nation’s democratic process – our elections – could not be allowed to interfere with economic policies that were being implemented in Greece.
“At that moment I felt that there could be no greater vindication of Lee Kuan Yew, or the Chinese Communist Party, indeed of some recalcitrant friends of mine who kept telling me that democracy would be banned if it ever threatened to change anything.”
Mr Varoufakis later wrote about an exchange he had with , then-German finance minister, in The Guardian.
It came a week after Greece’s first bilateral meeting in Berlin, where Mr Varoufakis and Dr Schäuble met at the table of the Eurogroup, the eurozone’s decision-making body, comprising the common currency’s finance ministers, plus the representatives of the troika – the ECB, the European Commission, and the (IMF).
After asking the group for a considerable renegotiation of Greece’s economic programme, which “had the troika’s fingerprints all over it”, Dr Schäuble “astounded” him.
He said the German minister’s reply “should send shivers up the spine of every “, as Dr Schäuble replied: “Elections cannot be allowed to change an economic programme of a member state!”
He added: “Another finance minister attempted to soothe me by saying, ‘Yanis, you must understand that no country can be sovereign today. Especially not a small and bankrupt one like yours.'”
Country’s like Mr Varoufakis’ Greece suffered the worst.
In order to avoid default, the country reached out to the ECB and IMF for help.
It was granted €110billion (£96.7bn) in loans that came with hefty interest rates.
provided the largest sum, around €22bn (£19bn).
In exchange for the loans, the EU required Greece to roll-out crippling austerity measures and cuts to public funding.
To this day, is still paying back the sum.
Its final scheduled payment is not until 2040.
The effects have been devastating for the country as it now has the worst youth unemployment in Europe.
Currently, 40 percent of those aged 15-24 are unemployed – the average for the same age group across the entire continent is just 14 percent.