All we need is democracy in Europe

All we need is democracy in Europe

“Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero,” (“Seize the day and put minimum trust on tomorrow.”) From Horace’s Odes to the late Robin Williams’ “Dead Poets Society,” this phrase has served many purposes. From “live your life to the fullest while you can” to “act now and do not wait for tomorrow,” Horace’s advice on life has found enough followers over two thousand years since it was first pronounced. 

So, it was not a surprise that former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis chose it as the title of his new party-movement-project that he launched last week.  

In his pan-European DiEm 25 (the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025), the urgency to act now as opposed to leaving it for an unknown future is obvious: the problem of Europe, he says, is the deterioration of its democracy, so it has to democratize now or else it will disintegrate.  What a day was for Horace is the next decade for Varoufakis; hence, the number 25 in the name of his movement which implies the year 2025.

In his preliminary “Manifesto for democratizing Europe,” this controversial economist who in his short political career –only five months- as finance minister of Greece’s first leftist government managed to become both adored and despised by his fellow countrymen and Brussels, attacks all the “Powers of Europe.”He advocates a new political structure where European peoples will rule and governments will be chosen by the demos. 

And this new type of government structure, he says, is the “nightmare” of a number of unelected institutions that presently constitute the ruling elite of Europe: the bureaucrats of Brussels and their lobbyists, the technocrats and the inspectors of the Troika, the Eurogroup, bankers, fund managers, media moguls, corporations “in cahoots with secretive public agencies investing in the same fear to promote secrecy and a culture of surveillance which bend public opinion to their will.”

Varoufakis laments the long-gone EU that managed to bring peace in the European continent with a shared vision of human rights “against chauvinism, racism and barbarity.” Today’s Europe, according to DiEM 2025, is a region where “nationalism, extremism and racism are being re-awakened,” where the weaker countries in the Eurozone are led to recession resulting from low investment, gross inequality and declining hope. There is no choice today for European countries: they will either have to become nation-states or “surrender to the Brussels-free zone.” The only antidote, according to Varoufakis, is a “Surge of Democracy” throughout Europe during the next decade in order to prevent the crumbling and fragmentation of the continent.

DiEM 25 touches also upon the failed attempt by Alexis Tsipras’s government to implement a leftist program in Greece and its surrender to a harsh new austerity program: “The imposition upon the democratically elected Greek government of an economic ‘reform’ program that was designed to fail, wounded Europe as a whole,” states Varoufakis in his manifesto. He also sees the reaction of European governments towards the flow of refugees by re-erecting internal borders as “moral panic by an EU unable to unify Europeans to forge common responses to common problems.”

When it comes to solutions, DiEM 25 is advocating democratization by full transparency in decision-making among European institutions, addressing the on-going economic crisis through their elected bodies and their communities and by setting up a Constitutional Assembly consisting of candidates from at least fifteen European countries to decide on a future democratic constitution to replace the existing European Treaties. 

Varoufakis resigned as finance minister after pressure from Brussels on the Greek government. He was demonized as an unreliable interlocutor during the long painful negotiations in the first days of the Tsipras government in the beginning of last year. He did not take part in the two consequent elections in Greece but decided to formulate his ideas in a European context hoping to win popular support. He will officially present the final form of his DiEM25 manifesto on Feb. 9 in Berlin’s Volksbühne Theatre, in Rosa Luxemburg Square. Will his core idea for a re-democratization of Europe appeal to the Europeans, already deeply divided by the refugee problem and frightened by terrorism? Is the idea of a united democratic Europe of freedom and democracy, relevant and doable still?  If it is, we will see how far Varoufakis’ “carpe diem” will go.