In his first international TV interview since resigning as Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that whilst he and other ministers had made mistakes during bailout negotiations, it had been the creditors’ desire to humiliate the Syriza government.
"We made mistakes, there's no doubt about that," he told CNN on Monday. "And I hold myself responsible for a number of them."
"But the truth of the matter, Christiane, is that the very powerful troika of creditors were not interested in coming a sensible, honourable, mutually beneficial agreement.”
“They were far more interested in humiliating this government and overthrowing it, or at least making sure that it overthrows itself in terms of its policies, than they were interested in an agreement that would for instance ensure that they would get most of their money back."
Varoufakis also expressed sympathy for Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, saying that the results of the referendum and intractability of Greek’s creditors had put him in an impossible position: "He was faced with a choice: Commit suicide or be executed."
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: The people voted "no" to this extending and pretending. But it became abundantly clear to me on the night of the referendum that the government's position was going to be to say yes to it. And therefore, it's very hard for me — well, however much I would like to — to take responsibility for a policy over which I resigned.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN: Do you think you messed up at all?
VAROUFAKIS: There were mistakes, of course. It takes incredible obstinacy to argue that one has not made mistakes, especially during a five-month period of extremely intense negotiations against creditors, who were not particularly interested in having a rational bargaining session, a rational negotiation. We made mistakes. There's no doubt about that and I hold myself responsible for a number of them. But the truth of the matter, Christiane, is that a very powerful troika of creditors were not interested in coming to a sensible, honourable, mutually beneficial agreement. That if you look at the way that they have behaved, from the very first day, we assumed power on the 25th of January, to the last week or so, I think that close inspection is going to reveal the truth of what I'm saying. They were far more interested in humiliating this government and overthrowing it or at least making sure that it overthrows itself in terms of its policy, than they were interested in an agreement that would, for instance, ensure that they would get most of their money back. The way that they have conducted themselves was a major assault on the very basis of rationality and European integration.
AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you this about overthrowing the government. We've heard from the other side that Prime Minister Tsipras said to try to convince people to keep this government in power, look, you've got to vote for this, no matter how much it stinks. You've got to vote for it because this is the only way to keep a leftist government in power in Greece after so many years. So his was also political, right?
VAROUFAKIS: Well, look, Prime Minister Tsipras was faced with an incredibly hard choice when he went to the Euro Summit a week ago or so. He was faced with a choice: commit suicide or be executed, effectively. And that is a major stigma on economic history and European history. No government should ever be treated that way in the context of a collaborative democratic nations. At that point, just because it was such a hard choice, the arguments were equally powerful on both sides. Alexis Tsipras decided that it would be best for the Greek people, for this government to stay put and to implement a program which the very same government disagrees with. People like me thought that it would be more honourable and in the long term more appropriate for us to resign. That's why I resigned. But I recognize his arguments as being equally powerful as mine.