Just five months after taking office as Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis unleashed a last baroque blast of invective at his haters as he resigned. “‘I wear the creditors’ loathing with pride,” he wrote in a blog, before saying his goodbyes to staff and riding out of the ministry on his Yamaha motorcycle with his glamorous wife.
Greece and Europe are unlikely to see his kind in office again. With his tie-less, untucked shirt, Mr Varoufakis, 54, was always ready with a broad smirk and a fiery quote, as he lambasted EU policies towards Greece that he said would “come down in economic history as the greatest cock-up ever”. He once described the Greek bailouts as “fiscal waterboarding” and compared the euro to the Hotel California: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”
Even after Greece defaulted on an International Monetary Fund repayment last week the self-described “erratic Marxist” was still firing rhetorical rockets, denouncing the policies of Greece’s creditors as “terrorism”.
By quitting after he won an emphatic victory in Sunday’s bailout the referendum, he can claim to have left on a high note, and his resignation post talked on the vote as “a unique moment when a small European nation rose up against debt bondage”.
Mr Varoufakis’s flamboyant style and erudite defiance offered a refreshing antidote to the grey bureaucratese of the sector. Like the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, Mr Varoufakis had charisma in spades, but this was the first time a finance minister was lauded as a rock star, and even described as a sex symbol. But his preening and preaching infuriated his fellow European finance ministers, who made it clear they could not work with someone they regarded as an economic Narcissus.
He came into politics on the back of an academic career as an economist in universities in Greece, Britain, Australia and the US. One of his academic specialities was game theory, the study of strategic decision making. Both allies and foes speculated about whether his provocative stances towards the rest of the eurozone were part of an elaborate attempt at manipulation.
But fame seemed also to go to his head. In March, he posed at a piano for Paris Match magazine, and with his wife on the terrace of their Athens home. Mr Tsipras stood by him for a while, deferring to his budgetary brain even as personal relations with the rest of the eurozone plummeted.
But in April, he was sidelined from negotiations. His replacement, Euclid Tsakalotos (educated at Eton and Oxford), is seen as equally radical in outlook, but far more amenable in style.Reuse content