Friday

16th Nov 2018

EUobserved

The theatre of the absurd: Varoufakis' (disputed) rude gesture

  • Yanis Varoufakis - at the centre of debate in Germany (Photo: Council of European Union)

While the eurozone grapples with what to do with Greece, an absurd side show has gripped the German public for the best part of a week - did Yanis Varoufakis, the man in charge of Greece's finances, make a rude gesture to Germany in a past video.

The drama began last Sunday (15 March) when Varoufakis appeared - via video link - in a popular talkshow along with a columnist for Bild newspapers (a tabloid known for its screeching headlines about Greeks), a right-wing politician and a journalist.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The debate was hum-drumming along - stilted by the simultaneous interpretation of Varoufakis' English - when the presenters screened a video clip of Varoufakis giving a talk in Zagreb in 2013.

In the clip Varoufakis says Greece should default on its loans: "Stick the finger to Germany and say . . . you have to solve the problem by yourself”. At the same time he is shown sticking up the middle finger of his left hand.

Varoufakis immediately denied making the gesture - known in German as giving the 'stinkefinger' - and said the video had been doctored.

The German media was beside itself with this sudden topic du jour.

Anything that anyone said - sensible or otherwise - about the Greece, the eurozone, German taxpayers' money in the chatshow - was obliterated by the need to get to the bottom of the Stinkefinger debate.

The Bild newspaper ran an article with part of the text highlighted in the shape of an offending digit. People rushed to look at the video, and, by and large, reached the conclusion that the footage was real.

Varoufakis added to the confusion by posting an extended version of the video on his twitter feed Monday saying "And here is the 'undoctored' by the unscrupulous media's video". But in that video, there he was making the gesture.

Everybody was nonplussed. Were there several meanings of 'doctored'?

By Wednesday things might have started to run out of steam as people started to wonder whether this really was key to the eurozone crisis and relations between Greek and Germans.

But that evening, Neo Magazin Royale, a satirical programme, claimed that it had doctored the video used during the chatshow.

"Sorry Mr Varoufakis, we won't do it again," said Jan Boehmermann, a satirist.

This prompted Varoufakis, again on twitter, to ask the chatshow's host Guenter Jauch to apologise "for having used a doctored video to silence a conciliatory Greek voice".

Media ran the video-actually-doctored-after-all story and soul-searched a little about falling for the first video.

Only it turned out that Boehmermann was indulging in some drawn out satire. The video that Neo Magazin Royale posted 'without' the finger was actually the 'doctored' one.

Twitter went into a confused tailspin. The hashtag #Varoufake and #varoufakefake was everywhere. As was the Denglisch word 'gefaked'.

In his own video Boehmermann spoke of Germany "devastating Europe two times within a century but going nuts when somebody is giving us the finger".

He appeared to be skewering several things at once faux outrage, attitudes to Greece, Germany's attitude about itself.

The debate has well and truly disappeared down a rabbit hole.

Feature

The second coming of Varoufakis

Greece’s former minister of finance re-emerges with a plan to democratise Europe. His proposals get a lukewarm reception.

No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt

British PM Theresa May battles for survival as she faces calls for her resignation and the rebellion of several ministers who resigned over the draft Brexit deal - which the EU is preparing to sign later this month.

Analysis

Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)

The main points of the Brexit withdrawal deal between London and Brussels dissected. Although the EU is preparing to sign the agreement, the UK government has been rocked by resignations since its publication less than 24 hours ago.

News in Brief

  1. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  2. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May
  3. Denmark blocks Tanzania aid over homophobic crackdown
  4. Second UK cabinet minister resigns over Brexit deal
  5. UK Brexit secretary quits morning after deal agreed
  6. Romanian MPs call for national 'Magnitsky Act'
  7. Tusk: Brexit summit on Sunday 25 November
  8. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published

Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Authorities in Budapest confirmed the former prime minister of Macedonia, fleeing a jail sentence in his own country, has filed for asylum. Despite Hungary's strict asylum laws, the pro-Kremlin politician was not turned away.

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  2. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  3. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  4. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  5. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  6. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot
  7. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  8. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us