April 16, 2024 - 3:00pm

Shutting down this year’s National Conservative conference in Brussels is a symptom of Europe’s slide into farcical authoritarianism, Yanis Varoufakis has claimed.

“It is an attempt to ban a conference simply because the authorities didn’t like what was being said in it,” the former Greek finance minister told UnHerd. “My view is that Europe is sliding ever so fast towards a quagmire of farcical authoritarianism. It may be a farce when history repeats itself but it can be just as atrocious, evil and misanthropic as the first time.”

This morning, police in Brussels reportedly shut down the NatCon event, which featured a litany of Right-wing populists such as Nigel Farage, Viktor Orbán and Éric Zemmour, after the city’s mayor instructed authorities to stop the conference. The police entered while Farage was delivering a keynote speech, with the former Ukip leader telling the audience: “I understand the police are very keen to shut this down. Well, in that case they can do it while I’m still on stage.”

“I’m no political friend of Nigel Farage but I would hate it if anyone like Nigel was prevented from speaking merely because he may say things that may annoy, among other people, myself,” said Varoufakis. “Unless we return to basic liberal values and stop wanting to be triggered by the arguments of our opponents, we stand no chance of navigating a decent course through the various landmines of authoritarianism.”

Varoufakis’s exclusive comments to UnHerd come as the DiEM25 co-founder faces a ban of his own. Earlier this month, the German Ministry of the Interior issued a ban against the 63-year-old after the police shut down the Palestine Congress that was set to take place in Berlin on 12 April. It entails not only a ban on entry into Germany, but also a prohibition on any form of online participation and activity at political events in the country. Varoufakis published his speech in full on X shortly after.

“This ban means that there must be a complete cessation of all political activity,” Varoufakis claimed, “which is not just a ban on my entry into Germany but also a prohibition to send a video message there”.

The politician tied his ban with ongoing events in Brussels, arguing that the attempts to censor free speech were a sign of an increasingly authoritarian EU. Weeks after his own conference was shut down, NatCon organisers faced a similar challenge when its chosen venue pulled out after anti-fascist groups threatened to protest.

“I think we’re past the point of no return of the European Union,” warned Varoufakis. “I am throwing my arms up, but not surrendering […] Whether Left or Right, those who believe in some basic human decency and political liberties should resist.”

is UnHerd’s Newsroom editor.