‘Greece Is A Scapegoat For The Disintegration Of The EU’



Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis

Economist and the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis spoke to Richard Crowley on RTÉ’s News At One on Friday.

It followed the European Commission’s threat last Wednesday to suspend Greece from Europe’s free-travel Schengen area – claiming the country is not carrying out its obligations in regards to the refugees and migrants arriving on the Greek islands.

It also came after Greece’s Immigration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas claimed on BBC’s Newsnight, last Wednesday evening, that Belgian authorities told the Greek authorities to “push” refugees and migrants “back to sea” as a means to stop those arriving.

Readers may also wish to note weekend reports, following the leaking of confidential documents, that the EU is drawing up plans to criminalise charities, volunteers or tourists who help migrants arriving on Greek islands.

The Times reported:

Previous EU legislation has given exemptions for “humanitarian assistance”, to protect charities and voluntary or non-profit groups from accusations of helping smugglers.”

Draft rules being discussed in secret talks between EU officials remove that exemption and require any volunteer or rescuer to register with the police or face arrest as smugglers.”

The interview with Mr Varoufakis started with Mr Crowley asking if Greece had a case to answer.

Yanis Varoufakis: “Look let’s be clear on this. When, in the middle of the night, somebody knocks on your door and they are flooded, they are wet, they are desperately frightened. What do you do, as a moral person, is you open the door and you let them in. And any other discussion flies in the face of basic humanism.”

Richard Crowley: “But, and they would say, specifically, whatever about giving them a home to look after them initially, that there is a process here that involves fingerprints and that that’s not being done systematically. Travel documents are not being systematically checked for their authenticity or against crucial security databases. And that’s, I presume, the primary concern of many in Europe.”

Varoufakis: “Well it’s the concern of people who really do not care about reality. When you are on an island like Lesbos with a police station of 10 officers and a couple of Customs officers and then suddenly, in the middle of the night, during a storm in winter, you’ve got 60, 70 bodies arriving on your shores and 3,000 to 4,000 very tired, desperate refugees coming off, at that point what you do is you find as many blankets as you can and you take them in. And if you have the capacity to fingerprint them, you do it after, you make sure these people don’t die of exposure in your hands.”

Crowley: “Sure, but Brussels, Brussels says you’re not doing it after you look after them either. That you’re simply allowing them to move on, that you’re not registering them because, if you did, it’s your country that they are entitled to stay in.”

Varoufakis: “Allow me to say that this discussion is particularly depressing to anyone who has a single humanist fibre left in his or her conscience. Remember, these are small islands. They have very few officials. It’s extremely difficult, they don’t even have the capacity to fingerprint. Brussels should, instead of pointing these fingers of demoralising accusations, they should simply do their duty and equip those islands with whatever it is necessary to do, in order to register these hapless human beings. On the question of what we do with them, the very notion that a country like Greece – which is having serious trouble feeding its own population given the devastating spiral in which we’ve been caught up over the last five or six years – should be turned into a concentration camp, a halting station because the Slovaks and the Germans and the Czechs do not want to be molested by refugees. That very notion is reprehensible to anyone who cares about the European Union.”

Crowley: “Is it a problem or to what extent is it a problem of finance or resources, are you getting any help, is Greece getting any help from Europe in terms of providing those facilities that you so badly need to be about to process these people?”

Varoufakis: “A pitiful amount, a pitiful amount.”

Crowley: “Under the system, as it is, and as imperfect as it is, Brussels accuses Athens of serious errors and, from what we hear, they’ve given you three months to get it right. And that that has been accepted by the Government in Greece. Now is that a realistic timetable?”

Varoufakis: “Of course it’s not. Why don’t Brussels get on their bike, metaphorically speaking, and come to Greece, with resources and help the Greek government cope with what is a European problem.”

Crowley: “Do you believe that this threat by Brussels to eject Greece from the passport-free zone, from the travel zone, from Schengen, unless or until you meet their requirements and put a system that is to their satisfaction in place. Do you believe that’s an idle threat or that they would go ahead and do it?”

Varoufakis: “I think it’s simply reflective of the way in which, after the economic crisis caused the transplantation of our monetary union, the Eurozone, the Eurozone is not what a singular currency should be like, that this economic crisis has created the circumstances for overwhelming and comprehensive disintegration of Europe. You can see that Schengen is dying everywhere, you can see that Angela Merkel is under extreme pressure to abandon Schengen. You can see that, between Austria and France, between Austria and Switzerland, between Switzerland and France, there are increasingly borders being reconstituted. The way I interpret it is that Brussels is using Greece, yet again, as a scapegoat for the disintegration of the European Union.”

Listen back in full here

Tourists who help drowning migrants face prosecution (The Times)

Refugee crisis: Council proposals on migrant smuggling would criminalise humanitarian assistance by civil society, local people and volunteers (Statewatch.org)

37 thoughts on “‘Greece Is A Scapegoat For The Disintegration Of The EU’

  1. classter

    He is correct. Under the Dublin agreement, the Med countries take the brunt of the impact of dealing with refugees. The rest of the EU should at least pick up a fair share of the tab.

  2. MoyestWithExcitement

    “the EU is drawing up plans to criminalise charities, volunteers or tourists who help migrants arriving on Greek islands.”


    1. DubLoony

      I presume he means anyone helping people landing on places like Lesbos. The descriptions there were heartbreaking. But I was stunned to find out that there were no Greeks cops there at all. There were no representatives of the state.

      If it was happening on say, Inis Óirr, the call would go out & officialdom would at least turn up.
      Can’t for the life of me understand why the Greeks haven’t put something in place. They have an army as well. What are they doing?

  3. fluffybiscuits

    Its a marked departure from the humanitarian approach they had. Im staunchly pro European but the autocratic nature of the EU is making me see that the EU from its core outwards are rotting slowly under the pressures of big corporations and selfish right wing nutters. A faceless bureaucrat in an expensive suit miles from reality preaches that help should be registered with law enforcement, does it serve any purpose? Europe has failed these migrants and their families. Red tape kills a lot of people from those on a hospital trolley to migrants in the sea.

    1. Lorcan Nagle

      I’m much the same. Becoming members of the EU really helped Ireland’s dvelopment, so I’ve enerally been pro-EU in the past. But in recent years I’m left wondering if they were always this bad when it came to humanitarian issues and I just never saw it before, or has there been so significant a change at the top?

      1. Tish Mahorey

        Change at the top. The ECB is running the show and want the EU to be one huge state. The migrant crisis is being used to advocate for one strong external border with none inside. Free movement of cheap casual labour, no nation states, no real power with the people.

    2. ahjayzis


      I’ve always been kind of unquestionably pro-EU, but these last few years I’m finding it harder and harder to defend it. We’re finding ourselves in a union that’s acting as an unelected government far, far to the right of anything the Irish electorate would ever vote for.

      Whether it’s our central bank in Frankfurt actively putting a gun to our governments head, the emasculation and enslavement of a sovereign country, Greece who dared to elect a left-wing government juxtaposed with treating the conversion of Poland and Hungary into one-party dictatorships with kid gloves – and now this latest disgraceful, shameful attempt to wash our hands of the most desperate people in the world.

      There’s no morality or humanity in it any more, Europe is a faceless, character-less, neo-liberal autocracy so in thrall to its fear of the far-right that it’s becoming the far-right.

      1. scottser

        you may also bear in mind that germany, france and the uk are direct beneficiaries from the wars in iraq and syria.

  4. Twunt

    At some point Greece developed a victim mentality and now seems incapable of taking control because they always see themselves as victims.

      1. Twunt


        They are going to get shafted, got shafted in the past, and will again. It happens to everyone and every country.

        Those that have a victim mentality recognise that they were harmed, accept no responsibility for the harm, believe they had no obligation to prevent this happening and deserve our sympathy.

        This refugee crisis is not of their making, and to an extent they are victims by being in the transit route. But the refrain from Greece is “What can we do”, “It is not our fault”. It had been the same refrain for every crisis that hits Greece. They refuse to take advise and view themselves as helpless, therefore others also view them as helpless.

        They need help, but unless they demonstrate a capacity to help themselves and work with the EU they will find themselves cut adrift.

        1. ahjayzis

          Those that stand up for themselves tell their oppressors to Fvck Off when told it’s their responsibility to bear the brunt of a European-wide problem.

          That’s not a sign of a victim, it’s standing up for yourself and refusing to be Europe’s refugee camp.

          1. classter

            Both narratives have a decent element of truth to them.

            Greece has been screwed over but Greece has been responsible for much of its own misfortunes also.

    1. DubLoony

      Could be a passive revenge. Yous fecked us over, we’ll just let everyone in & see houw you like it?

    2. ollie

      How would you like to see Greece taking control Twunt?
      A few long poles to push the boats back into the sea?

      1. Twunt

        By not offering solutions to a problem you are inherently a part of, you become part of the problem. These solutions must involve compromise on all sides and at the same time be somewhat palatable to all involved.

        Greece has many islands, this is seen as the problem. Make it part of the solution, setup reception/registration centers on one of these many islands. Close the borders with the EU. Make the refugee eligibility decision here. And then make it that no refugee that had not been through the designated centers can cross the border with the EU. Ask the EU to fund this endeavor. Now you are offering what might be a workable solution.

  5. han solo's carbonite dream

    this lad did well out of austerity for sure.

    although snide remarks from me aside , I do like the cut of his jib he speaks a decent amount of sense.

  6. rotide

    This guy completely failed to deliver on his election promises and possibly even made things worse with his presence in negotiations with the EU.

    Now we should listen to him on something else?

    1. han solo's carbonite dream

      i think you are harsh in your assessment rotide.

      He stuck to his guns (ie. his mandate) but the powers in the EU sought to collectively punish teh greeks for this stance. He was removed/stepped aside to prevent this

      one thing you cannot say is he didn’t attempt to implement his plans .
      merkel had her hand on the tap for the cash though..

      It does show how the banking structure than be used as a weapon and to blackmail non conformists.

      1. rotide

        The PM wasn’t removed. No one else was removed. He was. That’s no accident.

        You’re right, he did stick to his guns and that’s to be commended I guess but they were stupid guns that were never going to fly. Of course they were lauded on these pages. Don’t hear so much of Mercille pushing the syriza party line any more though,.

        1. ahjayzis

          “You’re right, he did stick to his guns and that’s to be commended I guess but they were stupid guns that were never going to fly. “

          Fly with who though?

          Are you really that comfortable with saying that in today’s EU democracy has no deciding role in the fate of countries any more?

          Go back and look at what Syriza was proposing – they weren’t trying to rip anyone off, They wanted to go a different way to the same goal – and were broken for it.

          1. classter

            That word ‘democracy’ is thrown around in relation to the Greek debacle all the time.

            Whose democracy counts?

            Greece can’t just vote to renounce its debts.

            Other democracies, for better or for worse, who had lent them money weren’t willing to forgive this debt. It might have been more prudent/kinder if they had but they are democracies too.

          2. Kieran NYC

            classter, I have voted and decided I don’t want to pay you back. Please respect my democratic wish and don’t try to oppress me by making me pay you back.

      2. classter

        It isn’t harsh.

        Varoufakis made a big play of how he was going to beat the rest of Europe into submission. He harped on about how stupid & short-sighted his negotiating partners were & bragged about how he was going to humiliate them.

        There is a lot of merit in what he was saying, but he was the wrong person saying it, in the wrong way. His idiotic approach ensured failure for Syrzia’s attempt to get debt forgiveness.

  7. meadowlark

    Can’t help but feel slightly sickened by this. I didn’t realise that bureaucracy and red tape was more important than our morals and ethics. But it really does seem that the EU are determined to push the Greeks down, to make them the scapegoat of Europe and punish them for it.

  8. Eoin

    You dare to question Brussels or Frankfurt and you get the hammer…continuously. What has been done to Greece should serve as a lesson to us all. We are all vassals of Germany. The EU is designed to profit Germany and distribute some scraps here and there to good vassals. But when vassals rebel, they get the hammer. The EU will fall apart. And this shall be preceded by unparalleled theft from the regular people by the elites. Watch for more money printing and asset stripping and bailouts. We’re also on the hook now of bail ins as of mid January (new under the radar EU bail in law…look it up). Next bank to fail in the EU will take all deposits over 100k. I believe it used to be called ‘theft’.

  9. Shayna

    I’m guessing that “everyone” has been to Greece? The people are lovely, gracious olive-d skinned beautiful types. They have a plethora of islands. I’ve visited only a few. The fish are abundant, as are the fishermen who stumble onto refugees in the water. They save their lives, bring them to Greece. Greece is the poor neighbour of the EU. They want to go to Germany – Merkel, at the week-end said that after the war is over that refugees should return home. If she was talking about Syria or the Jihad (they appear to be inter-twined) – well then – that’s never! Yanis (yes, I would!) talked about ‘Schengen’, – a town in Luxembourg, where in ’95, it was introduced into European Law that every citizen of Europe should be allowed to travel freely and work within Europe. Greece, and its citizens are being punished by the EU for acting humanitarily.

  10. Jake38

    If the EU is every going to be reformed it certainly is not going to be done by this deluded narcissist.

  11. inPisces

    Though a lot of people will agree what he is saying is true, it does beg the question of why the Greeks are sheltering the guys in the first place. No one forcing them to do Europe either

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