Greece’s former finance minister to stand for election in Germany

Greece's former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis will stand for the May 2019 European election in Germany, a country he once locked horns with during the Greek debt crisis, the political movement he launched has announced.

Greece's former finance minister to stand for election in Germany
Photo: Varoufakis speaking in 2017 as a guest professor at King's College. Photo: DPA

The anti-austerity maverick will head the list of Demokratie In Europa, a German political party that is part of the pan-European, cross-border movement DiEM25 set up by Varoufakis in 2016. It will seek to gain seats for the first time in the European Parliament.

Although he is not a German citizen, Varoufakis and his movement said he meets the conditions to stand as a candidate in Germany as he is an EU citizen who has a residential address in the country.

The 57-year-old economics professor said in a statement on Sunday that his party will offer a “Green New Deal for Europe: a realistic, credible, rational and immediately implementable policy agenda for the whole of Europe”.

According to the party's campaign programme, it will push to “ban tax havens within the EU” and put those outside the bloc on a black list.

It will also seek a “new EU budget” to fund projects like building up green infrastructure, fighting poverty and integrating immigrants.

The budget would be partly financed by taxes on carbon and financial  transactions, said the programme.

Varoufakis bitterly opposed Chancellor Angela Merkel's austerity-for-aid insistence in the Greek debt crisis, but has praised her for keeping Germany's doors open to asylum seekers.

SEE ALSO: Schäuble 'planned to let Greece fail': Varoufakis

In 2016, the former minister launched DiEM25, a transnational anti-establishment movement urging a “new deal” for a continent hit by the fallout of the 2008 economic crisis.

The name is an acronym for Movement for Democracy in Europe by 2025.

Prominent backers of the movement include Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, US intellectual Noam Chomsky and British musician Brian Eno.

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German war crime payments debated in Greece

Greece's parliament on Wednesday began a debate on a resolution to demand the payment of German war crime reparations, an issue long disputed by Berlin.

German war crime payments debated in Greece
Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras in Greece in January. Photo: DPA

“These demands are always active. They were never set aside by Greece,” parliament chairman Nikos Voutsis told reporters this week.

The chamber is expected to approve later Wednesday, with cross-party support, a resolution calling on the government of Premier Alexis Tsipras “to take all the necessary diplomatic and legal steps to claim and fully satisfy all the demands of the Greek state stemming from World War I and World War II”.

A parliamentary committee last year determined that Germany owes Greece at least €270 billion for World War I damages and looting, atrocities and a forced loan during the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Reclaiming war reparations has been a campaign pledge by Tsipras since 2015. He faces multiple electoral challenges this year, with his party trailing in polls.

'Historical responsibility'

During a visit to Greece in January, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country “recognised its historical responsibility.”

SEE ALSO: Merkel says Germany recognizes responsibility for Nazi war crimes in Greece

“We recognize our historical responsibility. We know how much suffering we, as Germany in the time of Nazism, have brought to Greece,” she said.

In 2014, ex-president Joachim Gauck had also sought public forgiveness in the name of Germany from relatives of those murdered by the Nazis in the mountains of northern Greece.

But when it comes to actual payments, the German government has always insisted that the issue was settled in 1960 in a deal with several European governments.

Germany's government spokesman Steffen Seibert reiterated Wednesday that “the reparation issue is judicially and politically settled”. 

He said Berlin is doing “everything it can so Greece and Germany maintain good relations as friends and partners”. 

During the Greek economic crisis, there was further tension in Athens over draconian EU austerity and bailout terms seen to be imposed by Berlin hardliners.

Relations have improved over the last three years after Tsipras' government endorsed conditions linked to satisfying its creditors.

Tsipras and Merkel also worked closely on finding common ground on migration and Balkans security.