Following the latest Greek election, I was interviewed on the ABC’s 7.30 Report. In the interview (which you can watch here), I presented a gloomy, yet realistic, view that it really matters little now what happens in Greece. “Greece is finished”, I argued, as long as the derailment of Europe’s euro-system is proceeding unhindered. Read on for the transcript:
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Joining us now from Athens is the Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis.
The obvious question is: what happens now?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS, ECONOMICS, ATHENS UNIVERSITY: Well, the derailment of the train that is the eurozone, which started with Greece and then other carriages started leaving the tracks sequentially – Ireland, Portugal, now Spain – is continuing. And yesterday’s vote is not going to change that at all. All exuberance and celebrations are completely and utterly misplaced. I’m afraid that the eurozone and Europe is continuing along the path of the last two years of a cascade of errors, a comedy of errors. Just look at Spain, what is happening there today. Look at what is happening in Italy. Unless the logic or what passes as logic in the European approach to this crisis alters and alters fast, very soon the eurozone will be history.
LEIGH SALES: Well, let’s stick with the big picture for the moment before we drill down into Greece. What do you think could happen then to avert that disaster as you see it?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you because there’s a lot of noise – could you repeat that question?
LEIGH SALES: I will. What do you think needs to happen to avert the disaster as you see it?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Three things, the very simple steps that need to be taken. Look, in Europe, whether it’s Greece or Spain, what we have now is we have insolvent banks that are in a deadly embrace with insolvent states. So, the states get – borrow money from the centre of Europe in order to give to the banks and banks borrow to give to the state and both banks and states are sort of locked into a deadly embrace with another sinking very fast. So what we need to do is we need to break this nexus between insolvent banks and insolvent states. So, the way to do this is to unify the banking system, to Europeanise it in the European Union and have it being funded directly not through national governments. That’s a very simple step, but it’s a step it seems too far for the European Union.
Secondly what you need is a mutualisation, a kind of common debt, like in Australia we have, you know, the Federal Government having its own debt over and above states. And thirdly we need an investment policy which runs throughout the eurozone. Because you have a secondly currency area, you need to have an investment strategy, a recycling mechanism for the whole thing. Unless we have these things, and Germany doesn’t want to have these things, I’m afraid there is absolutely nothing to avert the continuation of this slow motion derailment.
LEIGH SALES: Just to go back to Greece specifically, the politicians in Greece couldn’t even agree on the terms of a televised debate during the election campaign. How are they going to compromise on measures to fix the Greek economy?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: They cannot fix the Greek economy. The Greek economy is finished. The Greek economy is in a great, great depression. The growing social economy is in its long, long winter of discontent. There is no power, no force within the Greek economy, with Greek society that can avert – it’s like – imagine if we were in Ohio in 1931 and we were to ask: what can Ohio politicians do to get Ohio out of the Great Depression? The answer is nothing.
LEIGH SALES: So what then happens to Greece?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: It depends on what happens in the eurozone. Just like what happened in Ohio depended of the rise of President Roosevelt and the New Deal, unless we have a new deal for Europe, Greece is not going to get a chance. Now it doesn’t mean that if Europe fix itself, Greece will fix itself. It’s a necessary condition that the eurozone finds a rational plan for itself. It’s not a sufficient condition. Europe may fix itself and Greece, being so flimsy and malignant, may still have huge problems and never recover. But until and unless the eurozone finds a rational plan for stopping this train wreck throughout the European Union, throughout the eurozone, Greece has no chance at all.
LEIGH SALES: I read some statistics today that seven out of 10 Greeks want to emigrate. How would you describe the national mood there?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: This is a our Great Depression. Not only in an economic sense, but also in a psychological sense. Greeks are in a catatonic state. One moment, in a state of rage, another, this is a typical case of manic depression. There are no prospects. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. There are sacrifices, but nobody gets a feeling that these are sacrifices that take the form of some kind of investment in turning the corner. This is the problem when you are stuck in a eurozone which is really badly designed, which is collapsing and which does not give opportunities to its flimsier parts to escape through some kind of redemptive crisis.
LEIGH SALES: Yanis Varoufakis, we can hear how noisy it is there. Thank you very much for making the time to speak to us tonight.
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Thank you.