February 9, 2016 / 3:57 PM / 2 years ago

Greek ex-finance minister Varoufakis launches democracy movement

BERLIN (Reuters) - Yanis Varoufakis, who as Greece’s finance minister last year tried to defy German-backed austerity policies, launched a pan-European movement in Berlin on Tuesday that he said aimed to “democratize” the continent.

Greece's former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis addresses a news conference to introduce the so-called DiEM 25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025) at the Volksbuehne theatre in Berlin, Germany, February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Varoufakis kicked off his “Democracy in Europe Movement 2025” (Diem25) at the historic Volksbuehne theater, a venue well-known for its leftist political activism and its role in the former East Germany’s peaceful revolution.

“We’ve chosen Berlin precisely because nothing can change in a progressive direction without the full participation of Germany in our European endeavors,” Varoufakis told a news conference in the packed, red-walled theater auditorium.

His remarks contrast sharply with his behavior during last year’s fraught five-month negotiations over another financial bailout for Greece. Back then, his fiery language alienated many of his euro zone colleagues and he frequently clashed with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

A self-described “erratic Marxist”, motorbike-riding Varoufakis riled the Germans when comparing the rescue package to the Versailles Treaty, which forced crushing reparations on Germany after World War One and led to the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Varoufakis quit as finance minister last July after refusing to accept the terms of a third bailout for Greece which imposed further tough austerity measures.

On Tuesday, drawing parallels between the Europe of the 1930s and the present day, Varoufakis said the continent was stuck in a vicious circle of bad policy and ruled by “authoritarian technocrats”.

Varoufakis called for more European integration while also demanding sovereignty for each nation state, but he declined to provide any policy proposals and made clear his new movement would mainly be a forum for sharing ideas. He did not say whether he hoped to turn it into a party and contest elections.

In its manifesto, Diem25 says it aims to “bring about a fully democratic, functional Europe by 2025”. It had the support of some 2,400 people on its website on Tuesday afternoon.

Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Gareth Jones

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