#Euroleaks: the twin tragedies of austerity and the refugee crisis

Franco "Bifo" Berardi
18/03/2020, Articles
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Ursula von der Leyen’s visit at the Greek border and the Eurogroup meeting of 2015 occurred five years apart, but these events must be linked in order to understand what’s going on in Europe today.

Greek-Turkish border, 2020

Event one: On March 3rd, at the Greek border, Ursula von der Leyen gave thanks to the racist herds coming from various parts of Europe, for protecting the European land from the enemy: a crowd of migrants escaping war, misery and death. The words of Lady von der Leyen, a perfect synthesis of financial cynicism and nazis’ ruthlessness, reveal the infamy of today’s Europe.

Event two: Next March 14th Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek Minister of Finance of the Syriza government will publish the recordings of the Euro-group meetings of the year in which the Union strangled Greece and gave way to the process of social devastation that nurtured the racist nationalism which now finds its Fuhrer in Ursula von der Leyen.

“What is the relationship between the two events? What is the relationship between the comeback of Nazism in Europe and the humiliation that the Eurogroup inflicted upon the Greek population in the Spring-Summer of 2015?”

First of all, let’s retrace the genealogy of the violence that is spreading at the Eastern border of Europe, where Nazis aggressed families of fugitives coming from Syria and from Afghanistan with dogs and weapons.

In the first decade of the Century the European authorities (particularly the French) rejected the Turkish request for admission; a humiliating blow to the majority of Turkish people whose only hope was becoming part of the Union. According to Valery Giscard d’Estaing “the hypothesis of Turkish entry would imply the end of the European Union”. Then Sarkozy stated that Turkey will never enter Europe because “it is not European” (i.e. is not Christian).

“This identitarian stance pushed the Turkish to seek revenge with an aggressive resurgence of Islamic nationalism, the authoritarian power of Erdogan, and a strategic project of restoration of the Caliphate in the Mediterranean area.

Then, in 2015, the wave of immigration provoked a massive reaction in the population. With the exception of a (not so small) minority, Europeans defended their white privilege and refused to take responsibility for their colonial past, whilst also trampling on the right to refuge for civilians living in a warzone. Once the borders were closed, the continent turned into a fortress.

Furthermore, pushed by the massive xenophobic sentiment, the Union performed an unprecedented act of cowardice — delivering millions of men, women and children to the Caliph Erdogan and paying billions of euros in exchange. Meanwhile a network of concentration camps were created from Libya to Puglia from Ceuta to Lesbos all around the Mediterranean sea: Auschwitz on the beach.

In the lugubrious winter of 2020, the fugitives moved again, pushed by the Caliph, and infuriated by the defeat in the Syrian war. As soon as Erdogan opened the doors to those that Europe had rejected, a new act of the tragedy began at the Greek border and in the Eastern islands of the Aegean Sea. Driven by organised groups of fascists, a throng of enraged Greeks who understandably felt abandoned and betrayed by the Union rejected the boats of migrants approaching the coast, and the families trying to enter Europe with their shoulder bags.

Rather than give asylum to twenty thousand refugees who live in the island of Lesbos in inhumane conditions, Europe has decided to shelter behind the gangs of black migrant-hunters and is ready to bend to the irascible Gauleiter of Turkey again.

Impoverished by austerity, Greece has converted to right-wing nationalism, with the humanitarianism of Europe now in tatters.

Euro-group in Brussels, 2015

In order to fully understand why Europe sank in this abyss of infamy, we must go back to 2015. It was the year of the first mass migration, and also the year in which the abstract machine of humiliation, in its effort to reduce everybody to the ‘austeritarian’ rule, hit the Greek people.

There is a deep connection between the tragedy of the rejection of migrants, the enforcement of austerity, and the memorandum that 62% of the Greek citizens had refused in July 2015. That event had a devastating effect on the European Unconscious: people internalised the impotence of democracy when facing financial power, and the humiliation of Greek democracy fed the desire of revenge against democracy itself.

Amid the silence of the European left, Greece was ferociously aggressed by the financial system. It was dispossessed of its national infrastructures (such as airports, harbours, electricity), and impoverished by the pensions cuts, youth unemployment and massive emigration. It was humiliated.

This is why this is the right moment for disclosing Euroleaks — the recordings of the Eurogroup meetings, announced by DiEM25, and to reveal the roots of the cynicism of the European institutions. 

In the Spring of 2015 Greece, represented by its Minister of Finance, made a reasonable, although daring move. The proposal that Yanis Varoufakis made in those days was not only aimed at protecting the Greek population, but also at mitigating European austerity policies. These were definancing and privatising hospitals and schools, cutting salaries, and impoverishing social life in order to save the corrupted bank system. Now it’s crystal clear: the cuts to the public system of health have reduced the ability to counter the coronavirus epidemic. Austerity has weakened society, and disarmed us in front of the pandemic.

The intention of Varoufakis in 2015 was clear: stop the policy of overall privatisation, renegotiate the principle of budget balance. That intention was not even taken into consideration, and the economist and intellectual Varoufakis was ignored, ridiculed and treated as a bothersome provocateur by people like Dijsselbloem, Schauble, von der Leyen, that, if compared with him, are but ignorant stooges. 

They imposed the absolute law of finance, and turned the word democracy into an intolerable hypocrisy. A surly and revengeful sentiment took hold of the European heart. As finance had proved invincible, European crowds chose a weak enemy, one easy to reject and to humiliate: migrants were transformed into the enemy of the people, and Nazis are once again rejecting that enemy with dogs and with weapons.

In 2015 the serpent laid its financial egg, in 2020 Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission came out of the egg, a synthesis of cynicism and of horror.

FrancoBifoBerardi (born November 2, 1948) is an Italian philosopher, theorist and activist. He is also a member of our Advisory Panel.

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