In this interview with the former finance minister of Greece and founder of DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025), Yanis Varoufakis, a host of issues are discussed, including privatization, human rights, media, his experience with the EU and capitalism’s ability to reform.
Zain Raza: I want to talk about privatization. In December of 2015, a German airport operator called FRAPORT won the bid to operate and maintain 14 regional airports in Greece. According to their website, Lufthansa owns around 8.45 percent shares in FRAPORT. Specifically about privatization, have the Greek people benefited from it?
Yanis Varoufakis: I keep an open mind on privatization. When people ask me, “Are you in favor or against it?” My answer is: it depends — which privatization and under what conditions and circumstances. So when it came to the privatization of, let’s say, a telecom company, the Greek telecom company, I don’t think that was a bad idea. But if you ask me about the privatization of the electricity grid — I am dead against it because it never works. Whenever you privatize such a natural monopoly, the result is inefficiency and corruption. California-style for instance, right.
On the question of the Greek regional airports: Even if you are a neoliberal who believes in privatization, you should question the sale of all 14 regional airports to one company. Supposedly, when Margaret Thatcher introduced privatization on a neoliberal agenda that I fought against — I used to live in Britain back then and I used to demonstrate against Mrs. Thatcher’s policy — I don’t believe that Mrs. Thatcher would ever consider selling all airports to one company, because the point of privatization was to bring competition into the market. There is no competition there when one company buys all the airports. So I’m afraid that the fact that the Greek government, actually no Greek government since 2010 has owned its economic and social reform policy agenda — leads to colonial type…