The former Finance Minister of the SYRIZA government, economist Yanis Varoufakis, who is now the leader of his own political party -known as MERA 25 or DIEM 25- was brutally attacked and beaten by a group of five individuals in face coverings while dining at a restaurant in the district of Exarcheia, central Athens, on Friday night.
At around 21:30 local time, Varoufakis was in the company of his wife and members of his party “from all over Europe, when a small group of thugs stormed the place,” DIEM 25 describes in an announcement issued few hours after the incident.
The assailants reportedly told Varoufakis “you’re not welcome here, because you signed memoranda,” as the attack took place.
“Varoufakis stood up to talk to them but they immediately responded with violence, savagely beating him while they also filmed the scene,” DIEM 25’s announcement adds, in confirmation of earlier reports on Greek media.
The injured politician was transported to Evangelismos hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose, besides other bruises and abrasions from the assault.
One of the assailants was identified on Saturday through CCTV footage and arrested.
Yannis Varoufakis attacked in Exarchia, Athens
In the early hours of Saturday, Varoufakis, who is still today a controversial figure in Greek politics, took to Twitter to address the assault.
After thanking the hospital staff for treating him, and his followers for their solidarity, Varoufakis wrote of his assailants: “They were not anarchists, leftists, communists or members of any movement. Thugs for hire they were (and looked it) who clumsily invoked the lie that I sold out to the troika. We shall not let them divide us. Onwards!”
Thank U to our Greek NHS staff for treating me. Thank U all for your solidarity. Let us please stay focused: We are mourning the 57 victims of rail privatisation. We support the spontaneous youth rallies, the greatest hope that Greece can change. See you at the demonstrations 1/2
— Yanis Varoufakis (@yanisvaroufakis) March 11, 2023
It is understood that with his comment, Varoufakis wanted to dismiss any attempted connection between the background of his assailants, and the area of Exarcheia – where the attack took place, and which has a reputation for being a stronghold of anarchists and political radicals in Athens.
However, one of the assailants arrested on Saturday was described as a 17-year-old anarchist who is known to police for previous involvement in riots.
Politicians’ reactions to the assault on Varoufakis
Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou had reacted to the news of the assault within minutes on Friday.
“We roundly and categorically condemn the attack on MERA 25 (party) secretary Mr. Y. Varoufakis. Thuggery has no place in our democracy and violence in any form is not tolerated,” Oikonomou posted to Twitter.
“Greek police will do whatever is necessary so that perpetrators face justice,” he added in another tweet.
Καταδικάζουμε απερίφραστα και κατηγορηματικά την επίθεση στον Γραμματέα του ΜΕΡΑ 25 κ. Γ. Βαρουφάκη. Στην δημοκρατία μας δεν χωρούν τραμπουκισμοί και δεν είναι ανεκτή οποιαδήποτε μορφή βίας.
— Γιάννης Οικονόμου (@joikonomou) March 10, 2023
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wished Varoufakis a fast recovery from his injuries and reinstated the views expressed by Oikonomou.
Η επίθεση στον κ. Βαρουφάκη είναι απολύτως καταδικαστέα και δεν μπορεί να γίνει ανεκτή από τη Δημοκρατία μας. Του εύχομαι ταχεία ανάρρωση και είμαι βέβαιος ότι η Ελληνική Αστυνομία θα καταβάλει κάθε προσπάθεια, ώστε οι δράστες να οδηγηθούν στη Δικαιοσύνη.
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) March 10, 2023
Varoufakis’s office as Greece Finance Minister in 2015
Varoufakis was a protagonist of the 2015 dramatic negotiations for the Greek debt.
He was appointed Finance Minister in January of that year, following the election of the SYRIZA government, at a time when public resentment for the austerity mesures imposed by the country’s creditors had reached its peak.
In a most crucial moment for the Greek debt crisis, he led the negotiations to extent the loan agreement. Although at first Varoufakis managed to win Greece flexibility on the 2015 primary surplus target, he failed to reach a longer extension agreement on new terms and was instead presented with an ultimatum in the June Eurogroup.
The stalemate led to the introduction of capital controls in Greece, and the subsequent bailout referendum whose result rejected the bailout terms by 61,5%. Nonetheless, Varoufakis resigned as Finance Minister, being replaced by Euclid Tsakalotos, and the Greek government passed the third bailout package in August.
He did not stand for re-election in the September snap election, but instead founded the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM 25) in early 2016 and its “electoral wing” in Greece, MERA 25, in 2018.
In the 2019 national elections, MERA 25 secured nine parliamentary seats, with Varoufakis himself returning to the Parliament. Three of the other MERA 25 MPs had quit the party by the end of 2022.