News blog: Yanis Varoufakis replaced by ex-University of Kent academic

Academic and former finance minister succeeded by Euclid Tsakalotos as Greece debt crisis continues, writes deputy news editor John Morgan

July 6, 2015
greece, greek flag, european union

“Problem with putting economists into politics is they tend to act on principle,” tweeted Paul Mason, the Channel 4 News economics editor, on this morning’s news that Yanis Varoufakis had resigned as Greece’s finance minister.

Others, including the Greek government’s creditors, are less favourable in their judgement on Varoufakis, who took his PhD at the University of Essex and gave up a job at the University of Texas at Austin to become finance minister.

Varoufakis, who will feel Greece's referendum result vindicates his insistence that no bailout be agreed without debt relief, says on his Twitter bio that he had been “quietly writing obscure academic texts for years, until thrust onto the public scene by Europe’s inane handling of an inevitable crisis”.

Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister, has opted to replace him with another academic economist, Euclid Tsakalotos, the former deputy foreign minister who has been a leading member of the Greek government negotiating team attempting to strike a deal with its creditors.

Tsakalotos went to school at the private St Paul’s in London, studied politics, philosophy and economics at the University of Oxford as an undergraduate, took a master’s at the University of Sussex, a PhD at Oxford, then worked as a lecturer at the University of Kent in the early 1990s. He was latterly a professor of economics at National and Kapidistrian University of Athens.

Tsakalotos’ credentials are already under question after it emerged that he wrote a 2010 paper on the Greek crisis entirely in the font Comic Sans.

Mason, an experienced Greece watcher, has described Tsakalotos as a “classic Marxist of the New Left” who is committed to Euro membership.

Before Varoufakis got the push, the EU appears to have started blaming his academic specialism in game theory for his negotiating tactics.

Varoufakis had calculated that the EU would never allow Greece to exit from the euro and thus the Greek government’s negotiations prior to Sunday’s referendum were “fake”, according to this version of events. “Things happened too fast for game theorist [Varoufakis] to adapt, and not only is he destroying his economy, but has made a huge tactical mistake,” an EU official had been quoted as saying.

The EU, the IMF and the ECB have no doubt scrutinised Tsakalotos’ academic papers already.

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Reader's comments (1)

Early in the morning of Sunday March 30, 1952, Nikos Beloyannis was executed in Athens. One of the three members of the court-martial was Georgios Papadopoulos who later (1967) became the leader of the military dictatorship of 1967-1974. Nikos, also known as the "Man with the Carnation" thanks to Pablo Picasso, authored "Foreign Capital in Greece", a book exposing what the Greek debt was all about. In a nutshell, he showed that it was money granted by London bankers to German aristocrats who were asked to reign over the young Greek state arising from a revolution against the Othoman empire. The revolutionaries died in jail, whereas the foreign kings staged parties and arranged for taxation to pay for the never-ending extortionary interests. I will skip the interim for brevity in this comment, but I should point out a few points that are not of academic, but rather of intense political and economical interest. There is a lot of talk of modern debt. Who received this money? A new airport was built, but Hochtief (a Germany-based company) is the prime beneficiary (earner). A beautiful new bridge was built over the sea joining the northwest of the Peloponnese with the mainland, but it "belongs" to Vinci (a French construction company). Etc., etc. Money was given to European companies to build infrastructure that helped commerce and tourism. At the same money was given to close down (or move to countries with cheaper labour) industries, to kill local agriculture and to oppose any economic activity that could lead to financial independence within my country. More recently, money is being given to pay interests, on money that never reached my people. Today, we heard from Merkel and Hollande. Do they speak in the name of the people of France and the people of Germany? Or are they representing those special interests hinted to above? Others have written about the devastation brought to Greece during the second world war and afterwards. The solutions are unlikely to be found by academic ministers who accept the present order of things. We urgently need the Beloyannis, Kaloumenos, Batsis, Argyriadis of this generation. The political powers in Europe are exposing the union for what it is. The emerging picture is not pretty.

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