'We underestimated their power': Greek government insider lifts the lid on five months of 'humiliation' and 'blackmail'

This article is freely available. Check out our subscription offers. Subscribe

Behind the scenes with 'king' Schäuble, and when Dijsselbloem threatened to sink the Greek banks:

Of course, even to discuss Grexit is illegal since there is no legal provision in the Treaties to do that. […] There is no safeguard that a Grexit can happen in an orderly, negotiated, peaceful manner instead of disorderly, with people running to the foodstores. If you don't have a process of exit from the euro, then exit is a weapon of mass destruction. If you threaten someone with Grexit, you push him to the limit of the banking system's ability to withstand pressure. Then you destroy the banking system quickly and then you start from scratch to create new currency, which takes months to form.

Instead of saying that Grexit is illegal, they [the creditors] say that it's as destructive and disastrous for us as it is for you. That was wrong. First, I don't agree with this position because it's blackmail - "Be careful, I'm going to blow my brains out" - and it allows others to accuse us of blackmail. It's ridiculous for the others to accuse a country destroyed over five years of blackmail. But anyway, it's the wrong argument. The correct argument is that a Grexit and all the other measures that the Greeks have suffered are illegal under international law, under labour law, under the European treaties, the European Convention on Human Rights, European declaration of labour rights [contained in the European Social Charter].

The funny thing is that in early 2014, the European Parliament and all of them started attacking the Troika, with statements that it is illegal, unaccountable, is following measures that are destroying human rights, labour rights. Of course, we had a [conservative] government that didn't want to hear about this, because it wanted to attack the opposition and not the creditors. It failed to see that this was the greatest weapon we had.

For the weak side, there are only two methods. One is the law – an appeal for legitimacy - and the other is an appeal for the truth - who is right and who is wrong in the arguments, and in terms of human rights. Under the law, everybody is equal. […] So, if you appeal to the European Court of Justice and say "I am not treated equally as a member of the EU, NATO” et cetera, they won't be able to dismiss it. Especially if you have a fair period of time to make your case.


If you go through the legal route – and I'm not saying to do that - you must aim [to establish the creditor institutions’] political delegitimisation. Let the whole world know the eurozone is committing a crime against humanity. Prove it in ten years, I don't mind. But you make a case for the courts to say "until we examine the case, these measures must stop".

Today it's too late. It is a matter of political and ideological hegemony. Varoufakis alone, with his appeal and arguments, managed to turn public opinion in Europe, even in Germany. The Eurogroup people stood back. In the beginning of February, [Dutch finance minister and Eurogroup president Jeroen] Dijsselbloem told Varoufakis "You either sign the memorandum that the others have signed too, or your economy is going to collapse”. How? “We are going to collapse your banks". He had said that. In his last interview to ERT, the national [Greek public] TV [channel], two days ago, Varoufakis said: "I didn't denounce that then, because I was hoping that reason would prevail in the negotiations with all of the Eurogroup". So he went on with the numerous agreements. And credibility as well as money was lost. 

[…] The Eurogroup is not a proper democratically-functioning body. They [the Greek government of Alexis Tsipras] discovered that, again, very late, when they [the Eurogroup] wanted to throw Varoufakis out after the referendum announcement. Which was basically a gesture to humiliate. Varoufakis says "Who decides that?" Dijsselbloem says "I decide". Shouldn't there be a vote, shouldn't there be unanimity? Yes but it's not necessarily recorded, there are no minutes taken. He was taping, others too. Why? Because there are no minutes taken. So there is nothing formal.

You can't say "I went to the Eurogroup and Italy said that, Cyprus said that” et cetera. So everybody can come out and say anything they like. No-one can say: "Are you sure you said that? Let’s look at the minutes". There are no minutes. Of course, nobody can come out with a tape recorder. Varoufakis said that of course he kept the minutes of his own, because he was to report to the prime minister, and the others do it too. And the others came shouting "Oh! Varoufakis admitted this, and that".

The other countries in such a set-up had to think [German finance minister Wolfgang] Schäuble is the king, he controls the others, he can raise his voice and say “no". Varoufakis has described incidents that show really how the Eurozone is completely undemocratic, an almost neo-fascist euro dictatorship. You cannot rely on what the others are saying. Varoufakis says that if he could negotiate with one at a time for an hour, the deal would be struck in a day. But you can't do that because each one has different priorities and different people telling him “no”.

You cannot argue too much with Schäuble. It would be dangerous, because you won't get finance, German banks will want their money back, and so on. So it’s a institution where you cannot make your voice heard, so what's the point in encountering [them]? There was no-one else but Varoufakis talking straight. Schäuble has said "How much money do you want [in order] to leave the euro?" He doesn't want Greece in the euro at all. He was the first to raise the issue of a Grexit back in 2011.

We went to a war thinking we had the same weapons as them. We have underestimated their power […] It's a power that enters the very fabric of society, the way people think. It controls and blackmails. We have very few levers. The European edifice is already Kafkaesque.


Editing by Graham Tearse


  • The French translation of this interview carried out in English can be found here.


Extend your reading on Mediapart Unlimited access to the Journal free contribution in the Club Subscribe