Updates with Syriza MEP and EU Parliament Vice-President Dimitris Papadimoulis comment
Yanis Varoufakis, the Spitzenkandidat for leftist Democracy in Europe (DiEM25), told EURACTIV Germany it was “painful” but he would run against the European Left, which is not united and civilised.
“If the European Left were united, coherent and civilised, we wouldn’t have created Diem25, we’d have joined them. Now we are running against them, which is very painful to us,” the former Greek finance minister told EURACTIV Germany in an interview.
In November 2018, DiEM25, which Varoufakis launched in 2016, elected him as its Spitzenkandidat for the EU elections in May 2019.
Varoufakis quit the leftist Syriza-led Greek government in 2015, following a referendum in which Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected more austerity measures in return for new bailout cash.
The reason for his resignation, according to Varoufakis, was to allow Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to reach a new deal with European lenders.
Since then, he has been a fierce opponent of Tsipras and the Greek government.
In the interview, Varoufakis lashed out against leftist parties in Europe, saying that their lack of unity cannot bring tangible electoral results and, therefore, changes in the continent.
“There is no real European Left anymore. There are people like Gregor Gysi [President of the European Left], then there’s Alexis Tsipras, who imposes the most ridiculous austerity policies on his people, or Podemos in Spain, who have no policy for Europe at all.”
“The left parties have such different fractions in them that issuing a party manifesto becomes a carte blanche, it’s not coherent. This way you’re not going to draw voters from the right or from progressive parties. You shrink,” Varoufakis said.
Asked if he considered joining the leftist GUE/NGL political group in the next EU Parliament, Varoufakis said ideally his movement would join none of them.
“We’d like to collaborate with different groups on different issues. What the bureaucratic processes in terms of the right to speak etc. may force us into is another thing. But I don’t think this is the time to discuss this. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
EU lawmakers from the GUE-NGL, the Greens and the EU social democrats (S&D) have formed the so-called Progressive Caucus, an informal group, which aims to build bridges among the three political families and in the long run, form a “progressive” front.
But the European left remains widely fragmented, as seen in the case of the leader of La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Asked about this move, Varoufakis said it was “just big talk”.
“They’re not really approaching each other. The elections are in May but they don’t work together. They have no common programme, the discourse on Progressive Caucus doesn’t affect their electoral campaigns. It’s irrelevant.”
Why run in Germany?
Asked why he decided to run in Germany, he replied, “If you want to change the Roman Empire, you start in Rome”.
“Germany is the economic heart of Europe, the engine that pulls it, whether we like it or not. But also because public opinion in Germany, until recently at least, was much closer to Europeanism than in France for example,” he said.
He added that the French elites had always looked at the EU as an opportunity to project French power globally whereas Germany really wanted to integrate into the European project.
“That’s why it is the best place to work on democracy in Europe.”
The leftist Spitzenkandidats
In the meantime, the European Left Party voted on 26 January for the top candidates for the EU elections.
The two candidates are Violeta Tomic from Slovenia’s Levica and Nico Cue, the former secretary general of the Metalworkers’ Union of Belgium (MWB-FTGB).
Gregor Gysi said that with the candidacy of Violeta Tomic “we have a representative of an Eastern European party from a country that has come through a difficult period of transformation.”
For Cue, he said he was “a fighting voice for the workers and their unions. He is one of the most important trade unionists in Belgium and Europe.”
“With these two candidates, we want to make a clear offer to the people of Europe, because we are on the side of those who do not accept the growing contradiction between wealth and poverty. The social question is the key issue of our time,” he noted.
(Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos)