EU: Varoufakis discusses capitalism and democracy in 2016
The EU was today urged to adopt coronavirus vaccination passports in order to revive the bloc’s stricken tourist industry. Such a permit would enable millions of citizens living in the 27-member state bloc to travel freely. While many have hailed the idea, other countries have spoken against the idea.
France and Germany, who are largely regarded as spearheading the EU, said any document could be premature.
This is because data on the efficacy of vaccines in preventing a person from carrying or passing on COVID-19 is incomplete.
The issue of fairness has also been raised: vaccine passports would allow the older populations of countries to travel, while younger, healthy people wait at the bottom of the list.
A whole swathe of people would therefore face discriminatory restrictions on their lives still.
Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former finance minister, has in the past claimed that the EU acts unfairly towards its citizens.
His comments have been in reference to the bloc’s economic prowess, especially that performed by northern countries against their poorer, southern neighbours.
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Mr Varoufakis went as far as to describe the EU as a “glorified cartel” in the wake of the EU-UK vaccine crisis earlier this month.
In 2015, during a Ted Talk in Geneva, the politician suggested the idea of capitalism was overtaking the political system of democracy in Europe.
He hinted at a possible outcome of the EU crumbling in the face of a supercharged capitalism, something which he has later described as bloc “oligarchies”.
Mr Varoufakis said: “Democracy: In the West, me make a colossal mistake taking it for granted.
“We see democracy not as the most fragile of flowers that it really is, but we see it as part of our society’s furniture.
“We tend to think of it as an intransigent given.
“We mistakenly believe that capitalism inevitably begets democracy – it doesn’t.
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“Singapore’s Lee Kan Yew and his great imitators in Beijing have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that it is perfectly possible to have a flourishing capitalism, spectacular growth, while politics remains democracy-free.
“Indeed, democracy is reaching in our neck of the woods, here in Europe.
“Earlier this year, while I was reperesting 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 Kan 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.”
Adding to this, Mr Varoufakis said two spheres in Europe existed – the political and economic – with the latter having slowly “colonised” the former, leaving politicians “not in power”.
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He said: “Have you wondered why politicians are not what they used to be?
“It’s not because their DNA has degenerated.
“It is rather because one can be in government today and not in power, because power has migrated from the political to the economic sphere, which is separate.”
He added that the economic sphere had so “dominated” the political sphere that it has started to turn on itself, unaware, causing things like economic crises and financial crashes.
When such events occur, the already poor countries suffer most, he said.
In Greece, after the 2008 financial crash, in order to avoid default, the country reached out to the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help.
It was granted €110billion (96.7bn) in loans with hefty interest rates.
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Germany 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.
While these measures often result in protests as were seen in Greece post-2008, Robert Tombs, the renowned British historian, told Express.co.uk that he couldn’t see them forcing real change.
Talking about the discontent rippling across the bloc, he said: “I think the thing is there’s no obvious way out.
“We didn’t dislike the EU more than most other countries in Europe – but we could leave it because we were out of the eurozone and hence the risks of leaving were not so great.
“In countries like Italy, France, Greece, where the EU is much more unpopular than in Britain, there is widespread belief that you can’t actually leave it.
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“So, what do you do? You might say the obvious thing in that case is to change the way it operates, but there’s no suggestion of how you can do that – and hence, people are in a sense stuck.”
Many European countries are set to receive large loans and grants from the European Central Bank in order to recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
It is the first time the bloc has agreed to collective debt – despite this being against the EU’s predecessors rules, the European Economic Community (EEC).
Many, like Italexit spokesperson Sergio Montanaro, fear that the package could further entrench the EU among member states.
He told Express.co.uk that the funds “bind countries to the EU”.