Yanis Varoufakis

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Yanis Varoufakis (2015)

Yanis Varoufakis ( Greek Γιάνης Βαρουφάκης , alternative spelling Gianis Varoufakis, actually Ιωάννης Βαρουφάκης Ioannis Varoufakis , born March 24, 1961 in Athens ) is a Greek economist and politician .

He is an active blogger and author of several non-fiction books. In the parliamentary elections in January 2015 he was elected to the Greek parliament for the first time via the SYRIZA list and was finance minister in the cabinet of Alexis Tsipras I from January 27 to July 6, 2015 . Together with other fellow campaigners, he founded the pan-European movement DiEM25 on February 8, 2016 and was the lead candidate for the European elections on May 26, 2019 for the “ Democracy in Europe ” party, the German offshoot of this movement, with which, however, he does not have a mandate for the European Parliament could achieve. In the general election on July 7, 2019 , he was re-elected to the Greek parliament with the Greek branch of his movement, the MeRA25 party. In addition to Greek, Varoufakis also has Australian citizenship.

Professional career as an economist

Studies and teaching

After graduating from Moraitis private school in Athens , Varoufakis studied business mathematics at the University of Essex and mathematical statistics at the University of Birmingham . Between 1983 and 1985 he first taught in Essex, where he received his doctorate in economics two years later with an analysis of the strike activities of trade unions . From 1986 to 1988 he was a fellow and lecturer at Cambridge University . He also lectured at the universities of East Anglia , Glasgow and Sydney before he was appointed professor of economics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in September 2000 . From 2013 he taught as visiting professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin .

Contacts with the Papandreou family

Varoufakis got access to the political elite of Greece at the age of 17. In the parliamentary elections in 1977 , Petros Moralis, a former mentor of his, was elected to the Greek parliament. At the time, Moralis was a close confidante of the party chairman of the social democratic PASOK , who later became Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou . In order to experience his sponsor at his new place of work, Varoufakis sought out Moralis in parliament. He also got to know Papandreou personally. As early as 1975, Varoufakis' mother joined the Greek Women's Union , which was chaired by Papandreou's wife Margarita. Papandreou, who holds a PhD in economics from Harvard University , issued Varoufakis a letter of recommendation for his upcoming application. In 2000 Varoufakis returned to Greece after spending 23 years abroad.

When Giorgos Andrea Papandreou , the son of Andreas Papandreou, who died in 1996, took over the chairmanship of PASOK at the beginning of 2004 , the latter offered Varoufakis a job as an economic advisor to the party. In December 2006, however, Varoufakis distanced himself from Papandreou because he did not want to share responsibility for PASOK's economic policy. From 2007, in addition to his activities at the University of Athens, he primarily dealt with the global financial crisis , which triggered the Greek sovereign debt crisis .

When Papandreou turned to the EU in April 2010, after having been elected Prime Minister only a few months earlier, because his government had failed to counteract the resulting recession and the state was as good as cut off from the capital markets Varoufakis became one of his harshest critics. The ministers of the euro zone, in cooperation with the IMF , decided to guarantee Greek loans in the event that these would implement set austerity and reform requirements that were to be monitored by dispatched inspectors. This supervisory authority later became known as the Troika . Varoufakis said his country had no liquidity problem , it was simply broke. The money paid would only move the problem into the future, but not solve it. The imposed measures would result in the already ailing economy coming to a complete standstill. Instead, he recommended reinvesting borrowed sums. It was important to him to emphasize that his criticism was directed against the politics of Papandreou and not against him as a person. Varoufakis appeared on television more and more, and as the number of his admirers increased, so did the number of his critics. While some praised him for being able to express difficult issues in simple words, others condemned him for interfering too much in politics, of which he had no idea and the complexity of which he did not understand as a whole.

Book publication

Varoufakis was to be translated into six languages book internationally renowned The Global Minotaur (German: The Global Minotaur ) on the origins of the financial crisis. In it he uses the metaphor of the tributes to the Minotaurs for his central thesis that since the end of the Bretton Woods system in the early 1970s, most of the profits of German, Chinese and Japanese industries have flowed back to the USA from export surpluses and thus the steadily growing indebtedness of the USA made it possible. The publisher Zed Books quoted the positive reception of the book u. a. by Steve Keen and Terry Eagleton . As an expert, Varoufakis gave more and more interviews on the global economic and euro crisis on national and international television (e.g. on the BBC , CNN , Sky News , RT and Bloomberg TV ) and in the press. His Twitter account had almost 130,000 followers before he was appointed finance minister.

Stay in the USA

When in November 2011 Papandreou, who had come under pressure both internally and internationally, resigned and thus paved the way for a transitional government under the technocrat Loukas Papadimos , Varoufakis condemned this step; The new government is thus tightening the austerity policy of its predecessors. The newly formed cabinet was also supported by the previously opposition conservatives under Andonis Samaras , who had previously held Papandreou personally responsible for the emerging humanitarian crisis, but who now continued his policy.

Varoufakis himself had become a public figure. He appeared on the late-night show Vradi in December 2011 , where he also commented on his private life. A few weeks earlier, as he mentioned on a blog, he had received an email from the co-founder and CEO of the software company Valve Corporation , Gabe Newell , who discovered him through one of his articles on the financial crisis and his blog. After a face-to-face meeting, Newell offered him a job with the company. From March 2012 he worked as an economist and analyst for a year and from March 2013 as a consultant to the software developer. He reported on the results of his research in an in-house blog. His analyzes were incorporated into games such as Team Fortress 2 , Dota 2 or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and he conducted empirical research on the Steam distribution platform , which increased its market share to 75% in October 2013. In addition, he returned to teaching, from 2013 as a visiting professor at the University of Texas .

There, too, Varoufakis followed political events in Greece and reported on it in articles for the New York Times and Boston Review , among others . In one of his columns he explained why he and his partner left Greece; He blamed the desperate circumstances in the country's faculties with multiple salary cuts and a lack of job prospects for the emigration of many graduates and colleagues. At the beginning of 2012, he also received several anonymous death threats, by telephone and in writing, which were directed not only against him, but also against his family and his daughter living abroad. Since Papadimos came to power, he has not been seen on the state radio and television company ERT ; However, he protested against their closure in June 2013 and described the move as "barbaric". A few days later , the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published a translation of an article by Varoufakis entitled “Why state television ERT must not die”.

Economic policy positions

Varoufakis' economic standpoint has been described by an analyst as " John Maynard Keynes with a touch of Karl Marx ". The Neue Zürcher Zeitung described him as a pragmatist who wanted to work with his European colleagues to find a mutually acceptable solution. Varoufakis sees himself as a dedicated, but unorthodox Marxist , as he presented in a lecture in 2013, which appeared again in 2015 as an article in the Guardian, slightly modified. In it he professes his substance to Marx's analysis of capitalism and as a clear opponent of both mainstream economics (“ neoliberalism ”) and Keynesianism . He describes his distance from Marx in his insufficiently critical foresight of the political consequences of his theory and, on the other hand, an attachment to mathematical models, which leads to a certain deterministic thinking.

He is a staunch opponent of the austerity policy in response to the Greek sovereign debt crisis . In his view, “high losses from the banks' books were shifted to the weak shoulders of the Greek taxpayers, fully aware that because the Greek shoulders were too weak, the costs were transferred to Germany, Slovakia, Finland, Portugal and so on would spill over ”. It was not Greece that was saved, but banks and various hedge funds . Since the drastic austerity requirements have reduced people's incomes by a quarter and at the same time increased the cost of living, it has become impossible for both the public and private sectors in Greece to repay old and new loans.

In his "A Modest Proposal for Resolving the Eurozone Crisis", published for the first time in 2010 together with Stuart Holland and (from the 4th edition 2013) with James K. Galbraith , Varoufakis proposed the following points: the banks of the heavily indebted countries directly under the supervision of ECB to put the debts of the southern European countries on the market, provided they are “Maastricht-compliant” (i.e. the proportion that is below 60 percent of GDP) with the support of the ECB , a European investment fund and an emergency program financed Interest payments on Target2 liabilities . The authors call their proposal “modest” (German: modest) because they are of the opinion that this would not fundamentally change the European institutions. According to Varoufakis at the beginning of 2015, the proposed European Investment Fund could also be called the “Merkel Plan” - based on the “ Marshall Plan ” of the 1950s. The Bremen economist Hans-Heinrich Bass described the proposals by Varoufakis, Holland and Galbraith approvingly as "unconventional, but conforming to Europe". In connection with the rescheduling, Bass speaks of “washing away” part of the debt, namely the “good”, i.e. H. debt secured with a physical equivalent (for example in the infrastructure ). In contrast, the journalist Christian Reiermann in Der Spiegel described the proposals as "cloud shifts". The text by the three authors was published in German on February 27, 2015 under the title Modest Proposal to Solve the Euro Crisis .

In 2015, Varoufakis assessed the future of the European single currency as follows:

“The euro is not sustainable. The way the EU approached this crisis was monumentally idiotic. The European Central Bank (ECB) is not in control of the situation, Europe's banking system remains fragmented, and we are moving towards nationalization of politics rather than towards fiscal union. If we continue to deal with Europe's problems as we have before, there will be no more euro in a few years. "

- Yanis Varoufakis : Interview in profil

Political career

Contacts with Syriza

When asked whether he could introduce himself as a politician, Varoufakis always replied that he saw himself in the role of a mediator who saw himself as a point of contact for all parties, with the exception of the anti-democratic parties. That is why he was in dialogue with many MPs, including Alexis Tsipras . After the conservatives had joined the transitional government of Papadimos and Varoufakis started his new job in the USA, he gave up his neutral stance for the first time in the parliamentary elections in 2012 and publicly acknowledged his support for the “radical left” of the SYRIZA party. In them he saw the most democratic of all ways to improve Europe and bring the country out of austerity , i.e. H. to lead the state austerity policy. When Tsipras suggested in early 2014 that he should run for Syriza in the upcoming European elections , Varoufakis turned it down. He felt honored, he wrote in a post, but he still does not see himself as a politician. When, towards the end of the same year, it became apparent that there could be an early parliamentary election, Tsipras Varoufakis called on Syriza to face responsibility in the event of an election victory in order to find a way out of the crisis. Greece's national debt was now higher than at the beginning of the crisis and the country suffered from mass unemployment of over 26%, the highest in Europe. Around 230,000 companies had filed for bankruptcy since the beginning of 2010, and the country's economic performance had slumped by a quarter. Varoufakis affirmed that participation in a government with Syriza would only be possible if it were legitimized and desired by the Greek people. He ran for the 2015 parliamentary election in the Athens B constituency and was elected to the Greek parliament with 135,638 votes as the member with the most votes in this election.

Finance minister

On January 27, 2015, Alexis Tsipras Varoufakis, who had sworn in as Prime Minister the day before, appointed Minister of Finance in his cabinet, among other things responsible for negotiations with partners in the euro zone . He was joined by Giannis Dragasakis , who oversees the economic and financial sectors in the Tsipras government.

In his first official act on January 30, 2015, he received Euro group leader Jeroen Dijsselbloem , who had traveled to Athens to inform the new Greek government that the Eurozone would continue with its previous policy and to explain to his colleagues that the Eurogroup expected that the regulations agreed with the previous government would also have to be implemented by the new government and would not be negotiable. Varoufakis replied that they had been elected to renegotiate the conditions with the European partners; under the new government there will be no further cuts in salaries or pensions that the troika is demanding of the Greek government. When Dijsselbloem reaffirmed his position at the subsequent press conference and said that unilateral steps or ignoring previous agreements were not a step forward, there was a scandal. Varoufakis announced that they would no longer work with the Troika in the current form. The press conference was then ended. With this, Varoufakis had become the face of the financial crisis. The media interest in the Greek finance minister increased enormously; from then on, the German-speaking media world in particular reported almost daily about Varoufakis, to the displeasure of some European colleagues. Varoufakis found himself increasingly isolated from his European counterparts, as the Greek side continued to refuse to accept further cuts in salaries and pensions in order not to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. The negotiations reached their negative climax at the Eurogroup meeting at the end of April 2015 in Riga . Some diplomats who attended the meeting told the press about personal insults against the Greek finance minister. When asked about this, Varoufakis confirmed a lively dialogue with other finance ministers, but denied any personal insults against him. Mostly German media reported, however, in Athens they are playing with the idea of ​​removing Varoufakis. The Greek government contradicted this. However, Tsipras appointed Efklidis Tsakalotos as head of the negotiating delegation in Varoufakis' place on the grounds that he wanted to strengthen the finance minister in further negotiations. At the time, Tsakalotos was Deputy Foreign Minister responsible for international economic relations and was supposed to better coordinate the processes of discussion between the institutions and the Greek government. Numerous media at home and abroad interpreted this step as a partial disempowerment of the finance minister. However, this was not the first media controversy surrounding him.

Varoufakis recorded some of the talks surrounding the debt crisis, as it became known in March 2020.

Media controversy

Varoufakis said in an interview that the loans to Greece did not work, but rather went into a black hole; nevertheless, Germany, among others, would continue to pay. He pleaded for a wiser way of dealing with expenses and protested against borrowing money from German taxpayers in order to pay off the ECB. In this context, some media in 2015 often quoted the sentence “Whatever the Germans say, they will pay” as if he wanted to threaten Germany with it. In response to this media presentation, which naturally evoked severe criticism, Varoufakis replied that he hoped that this presentation was not intentional.

In 2013, during a lecture, Varoufakis explained his suggestion that Greece should have declared its insolvency to its creditors in January 2010, like Argentina recently. According to Varoufakis, this would damage the country today. As the main differences to the situation in Argentina, he named the Greek economic structure and the conditions in the euro zone, of which Greece is to remain a member. Varoufakis had literally added the following to his suggestion: “… and stick the finger to Germany and say 'well, you can now solve this problem by yourself'.” The question of whether this “stinky finger” was literally directed against Germany or whether the corresponding video Was genuine at all, subsequently triggered a heated media debate internationally, too.

Referendum and declaration of resignation

After Prime Minister Tsipras announced a referendum on the negotiations with the creditor institutions on June 27, 2015 , at the Eurogroup meeting on the same day, Varoufakis asked for the expiring program to be extended by a few days so that the referendum could be implemented. After this request was rejected, the Greek delegation left the Eurogroup meeting, while the finance ministers of the other countries continued the meeting. When asked, Varoufakis said that Jeroen Dijsselbloem had asked him that the Greek delegation should stay away from further deliberations. This later presented the absence of the Greek finance minister as his wish.

After the referendum was announced, Varoufakis announced that he would resign if the majority of voters did not follow the recommendation of the Tsipras government to reject the Eurogroup's offer. In the vote on July 5, with 61.31 percent, a clear majority of Greeks voted no. Nevertheless, on July 6, 2015, Varoufakis announced his resignation for the same day on his blog, initially on Twitter, on the grounds that several members of the Eurogroup wanted his “absence” from their meetings; he does not want to stand in the way of further negotiations.

European elections 2019

Leading candidate for Democracy on the Move (and DiEM25)

Yanis Varoufakis (2019)

On November 25, 2018, he was elected the top candidate for the European elections on May 26, 2019 at a general meeting of the German small party Democracy in Movement (and the German part of its Democracy in Europe 2025 / Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 , DiEM25 ).

In April he said in the FAZ : “If I should be elected to the [European] Parliament, I will submit my proposals to the electorate on how things can be improved in Europe - and then I will leave Parliament to campaign in Greece To make [parliamentary elections] . My seat will then be taken over by Daniela Platsch , a very capable economist. I think the voters will understand. "

With his pan-European movement DiEM25 , he hopes to be able to lay the "foundation stone for a socio-ecological paradigm shift in Europe" in the 2019 European elections. The core demand of his movement is the "European Green New Deal", which proposes investments of 500 billion euros annually for five years in climate protection and the development of green technologies across Europe. The money is to be provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB) through bonds that can be bought by private investors. Varoufakis also promises to create new jobs with this stimulus package and thus to alleviate the “colossal failure of Europe” in energy and social policy. In addition, DiEM25 demands, among other things, an unconditional basic income , a compulsory tax for technology companies and a European minimum wage.

In the election, the party won 130,072 votes in Germany. This corresponded to a share of the vote of 0.3 percent, but was not enough for any of the 96 German mandates for the European Parliament .

Private life

In his book The Whole Story , Varoufakis also describes his family origins. His father Giorgios came from a Greek family living in Egypt and emigrated to Greece in 1945 as a 20-year-old bank clerk to study chemistry in Athens. As a student spokesman, he was interned for four years for political reasons. Yanis Varoufakis' mother Eleni, who was four years younger than her husband, was the first woman to study chemistry at the University of Athens while his father was in custody and was later recruited by a fascist organization to “follow a fellow student at every turn, who also studied chemistry and had just been released from the camp ”. His mother later played an important role in the Greek women's movement in the 1970s.

Yanis Varoufakis was married to an Australian of Greek origin for the first time. After eleven years, the couple separated and his ex-wife returned to Australia with their daughter. Since 2005, he has been married again, with the artist and gallery owner Danae Stratou. In 2010, the couple founded the non-profit organization Vital Space , which has set itself the task of drawing attention to global grievances.



Web links

Commons : Yanis Varoufakis  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  9. ^ The explosive contact between Varoufakis and Papandreou. In: Time of Greece ( Greek ).
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  13. Petros Kostopoulos: When I met Varoufakis. Toratora.gr, guest commentary (Greek).
  14. Peter Steinlechner: Yanis Varoufakis: Greek finance minister worked for Valve . In: Golem.de , January 28, 2015.
  15. ^ Valve Economics . ( Memento from January 27, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Valve Software (English).
  16. Valve: Former employee becomes Greece's new finance minister . In: Playnation.de.
  17. Varoufakis worked in the game industry . In: n-tv .de , January 28, 2015.
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  19. ^ Greece closes state broadcasting company ERT . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . June 12th, 2013.
  20. Yanis Varoufakis: Greek media: Why state television ERT must not die . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . June. 17.2013.
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  27. Stuart Holland (* 1940) is Visiting Professor of Economics at the University of Coimbra (Portugal), was a member of the British House of Commons for the Labor Party and advisor to Jacques Delors ; see also : Stuart Holland .
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  29. Dietmar Neuerer: “Merkel Plan” is supposed to save Greece. Handelsblatt , February 4, 2015, accessed on November 2, 2017 .
  30. Hans-Heinrich Bass: Rule rather unusual. In: The European. February 12, 2015, accessed November 6, 2015 .
  31. Christian Reiermann: Four blows through the Gordian accounts . In: Der Spiegel . No. 8 , 2015, p. 65 ( online ).
  32. Matthias Breitinger: Syriza acts responsibly. In: Die Zeit , June 6, 2012 (interview).
  33. Mass unemployment for years. In: Frankfurter Rundschau , November 2, 2014.
  34. Γιατί κατεβαίνω (Greek) (English: Why I am running). In: protagon.gr, January 9, 2015.
  35. Βαθύ χάσμα μεταξύ Ευρωζώνης - κυβέρνησης ( Greek ) (German: deep gap between the Eurozone and the government). In: kathimerini , January 31, 2015.
  36. Greece terminates cooperation with Troika. In: Der Tagesspiegel , January 30, 2015.
  37. «Αδειασμα» Βαρουφάκη από Τσίπρα προεξοφλούν τα διεθνή MME. In: Ta Nea , April 27, 2015 ( Greek ).
  38. Tsipras expresses his trust in Varoufakis . Spiegel Online , April 27, 2015.
  39. Giorgos Christides, Dirk Kurbjuweit , Peter Müller, Andreas Wassermann: "Yanis, help us!" In: Der Spiegel . No. 12 , 2020, p. 86-89 ( online ).
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  43. Peter Maxwill: That's what Varoufakis said when he showed the finger. In: Spiegel Online , March 17, 2015.
  44. ^ Robert Mackey: Greco-German 'Fingergate' Gets Curiouser and Curiouser . In: The New York Times . March 19, 2015, ISSN  0362-4331 ( nytimes.com [accessed August 4, 2015]).
  45. Eurogroup: Έφυγε μόνος του ο Βαρουφάκης ή τον έδιωξαν; (German: Eurogroup. Did Varoufakis go voluntarily or did he have to go?) In: protothema.gr June 27, 2015 ( Greek ).
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  47. Yanis Varoufakis wants to run for the European elections in Germany . Zeit Online , November 25, 2018
  48. a b In conversation: Yanis Varoufakis: "I am not responsible for my rock star image" . Interview by Oliver Georgi and Jakob Gutmann, FAZ , April 26, 2019
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  50. Yanis Varoufakis: The Whole Story. My engagement with Europe's establishment. Verlag Antje Kunstmann, Munich 2017, pp. 24–26.
  51. Οι γυναίκες και η ζωή του Γιάννη Βαρουφάκη (German: The women and the life of Yanis Varoufakis ). In: notosnet.gr ; January 29, 2015.
  52. James Chessell: Yanis Varoufakis: The Aussie handling Greece's new deal . In: The Australian Financial Review , January 28, 2015.
  53. ^ Liz Alderman: Greece's Feisty Finance Minister Tries a More Moderate Message . In: The New York Times , January 30, 2015.
  54. ^ Vital Space website .
  55. Nikolaus Piper: Economy as a cult. Süddeutsche Zeitung , March 7, 2015, accessed on November 2, 2017 .