Translation of a speech by DiEM25 member Judith Meyer at a DiEM25 meeting in Aegina, Greece, in August 2016.
My name is Judith Meyer. I am German, I don’t have Greek origins, so my Greek is horrible, but I’ll try to speak to you in Greek.
Why am I here with DiEM25? The story begins in January or maybe February 2015.
The Greek negotiations entered public consciousness. Until then, the average German wasn’t talking much about Greece, about the Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and so on. There was a general sense that the South doesn’t understand economics and regularly needs German money, but people in Germany couldn’t have told you how many MoUs had been signed or what their terms were. Yanis Varoufakis changed that.
He did not just represent the Greek people strongly in the negotiations, but also showed other Europeans what was happening. What was happening at the Eurogroup, what was happening with Greece, what are the other European governments doing, who, behind closed doors, often exceed their popular mandate.
Of course German newspapers didn’t write this. At that time, some of us woke up because there was no longer diversity in German newspapers on this topic, ALL were writing that Greeks are lazy, that the new Greek government was ignorant and dangerous, that Finance Minister Varoufakis was the worst, the enemy of German taxpayers. When all newspapers write the same, that’s a warning signal: it’s crucial to find other opinions too.
When you look for the truth on that time period, it’s easy to find.
- Greeks aren’t lazy – on average they work 700 hours more than Germans every year.
- The new Greek government wasn’t ignorant or dangerous – its proposals had the support of well-known economists.
- Varoufakis wasn’t the enemy of German taxpayers – he wanted us not to pay billions of Euros if there is no chance of economic recovery in Greece, and the following year we’d have to pay even more.
Unfortunately the majority of my compatriots did not look for this information and only listened to the media who spoke of BATTLE between you and us. That was the means that the German media used so that there would be no solidarity between the poor people in Germany and Greece. Our media spoke of germanophobia in Greece, they showed photographs of Greek demonstrations where people had Merkel with Nazi emblems… that hurts, but… if the peoples of Europe don’t work together, only bankers will win.
To be honest, even we who did not support the German government didn’t know how harsh our politicians could be to Greece. In May, June, I was writing articles to explain the Greek positions to my compatriots and to English speakers, but I still didn’t believe my Greek friends who were afraid of becoming a debt colony. I didn’t believe them. I apologised to them on the 13th of July.
I think that outside of Greece, not many expected it, because we’re Europeanists. We didn’t want to believe it. It was a terrible wake-up call for those who saw it (which wasn’t all in Germany, because many German media reported about the 12th of July as about just any other night of negotiations, they didn’t speak of victory or the like).
For me, my European dream had been demolished. In my depression, I wrote an email to Mr Varoufakis on July 14, in order to thank him for having shown us the true face of the European Union.
He didn’t know me, so I didn’t expect a reply, but it came: “Thanks Judith. We need to remain pro-European and criticise actively those who have usurped Europe.”
Thus we started to exchange emails. In November he wrote to me about DiEM25, the manifesto and so on.
As a European movement, DiEM needed a multilingual web presence, and since I speak 13 languages, the first task I undertook was the organisation of multilingual Twitter accounts and the translation of the website by volunteers.
Nowadays I organise everything to do with DiEM25 volunteers. We have so many! More than 20,000 Europeans want to do volunteer work for DiEM25.
The Athens Spring and the 12th of July were a necessary shock. Now my generation, the Erasmus generation and the generation of open borders, has woken up. We won’t allow the leaders of the European Union to destroy our European dreams.
We demand a democratic Europe with transparency, shared prosperity and a sense of ethics. Europe will either be democratised or it will disintegrate!
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