Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has launched a pan-European movement designed to "democratize" the EU within a decade. Naomi Conrad reports from Berlin.
Tuesday's event at Berlin's imposing Volksbühne, famous for its long tradition of radical left-wing productions, had been long sold out. Yanis Varoufakis, a self-proclaimed "erratic Marxist" who promised to take on the European Union was the reason for the rush.
It was his "duty" to do so, he told a packed audience. Otherwise, the EU would "disintegrate".
The economics professor rose to fame when he was appointed as finance minister by Greece's left-wing Syriza party last year. He famously clashed with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble, as he tried to defy German-backed European austerity policies.
Finally, with a third bailout on the table, which imposed further rather than less austerity measures, Varoufakis resigned his post and broke with Syriza.
EU: 'Confederacy of naive officials'
But now the economist turned maverick politician is trying to reclaim the political arena with the Berlin launch of his grassroots pan-European movement. Varoufakis calls the movement "a broad coalition of radical democrats," which intends to "democratize" the European Union - and indeed revolutionize the 28-member bloc.
(In its founding manifesto published online, the movement called DiEM 25 - short for Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 - sets out to "democratize Europe." It slams the EU as "anti-democratic" and "fragmenting," and presided over by authoritarian technocrats . Varoufakis also told the audience it was "an EU establishment which rules by fear."
The EU, the manifesto reads, is ruled by "a confederacy of myopic politicians, economically naive officials and financially incompetent ‘experts' [who] submit slavishly to the edicts of financial and industrial conglomerates, alienating Europeans and stirring up a dangerous anti-European backlash."
The movement calls for full transparency in EU decision-making, such as live-streaming important meetings, and limiting Brussels' power in such areas as public debt, banking and migration.
Critics slam DiEM 25
The manifesto also sets out to hold a constitutional assembly and enact a European constitution by 2025.
Should the grand plan fail, Varoufakis told a packed audience, Europe, faced by a refugee crisis, would experience "a post-modern version of the 1930s," warning of a "return to fortresses everywhere in Europe".
He was joined on stage by leader of the left-wing party "Die Linke," Katja Kipping, British MP Caroline Lucas and Irish MEP Nessa Childers, among others.
The movement is not without its critics: In an open letter published on his website, Sven Giegold, a member of the European Parliament for the Green Party, called Varoufakis' comments "disrespectful and populist." He also slammed the manifesto for lacking transparency, pointing out that it was unclear who decided on the final version of the document.
But nevertheless, the number of those who signed up to the petition continued to grow on Tuesday evening. By late evening, more than 3,200 people had signed up.