Europe / Global
Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufaki's strong sense of style, plus a look ahead to the Finnish elections
Style leader no. 59
Playing by his own rules
Greece — YANIS VAROUFAKIS
Greece’s new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, commutes to work on of a 1,300cc Yamaha motorbike wearing black jeans, his ministerial papers in a khaki green rucksack. On his first tour of Europe to meet his financial counterparts his dress code differed very little. He appeared outside 11 Downing Street in a black wax jacket, bashed-up black shoes and an electric-blue shirt. In Berlin he sat alongside a grey-suited Wolfgang Schauble, tieless, in a navy shirt and dark blazer and appealed (in English) to the land of “Goethe, Beethoven, Hegel and Kant [to remain] steadfast in Europe’s post-war project”.
The shaven-headed Athenian academic has a steady gaze, unhurried gait, dry wit and frank delivery. His message to Europe was to stop the “fiscal waterboarding” imposed on Greece. Those close to him say his dress code is not a defiant gesture. “While artistic by nature he pays no attention to his clothes,” says Nicholas Theocarakis, a friend and colleague at the economics department of the University of Athens. “It is only after he became a minister that he changed plain casual to smart casual.”
His untucked look underlines his anti-establishment position. Though he is part of Tsipras’s cabinet he is not a Syriza party member. He has spent his career in university economics departments, writing anti-economic treatises; a stance he compares on his blog to being an “atheist theologian ensconced in a Middle Ages monastery”. Somewhat similarly, as Greek finance minister he is an outspoken freewheeling Marxist in a Eurozone full of dogmatic technocrats.
Finland — HEALTH
One more reason why Finns lead healthier lives: researchers have discovered that a daily 20-minute walk in the forest can boost mental health and lower blood pressure. According to the Finnish Forest Research Institute, everyone should spend at least five hours in nature every month, but even less time than that can still make you feel better. In fact, just seeing a forest through your window will increase your vitality.
Forest cover is more extensive in Finland than in any other European country, accounting for three quarters of the nation’s land area. “The effects of being in a forest are both mental and physical but many studies have shown that the psychological benefits are especially strong. Our minds are at ease in nature,” says Kati Vähäsarja, project director at Finland’s forest-management agency.
Ukraine — ECONOMY
Faced with daunting reforms, the Ukrainian government is banking on foreign experts. Since December, the ministry of finance has been entrusted to Harvard-educated Natalie Jaresko from Chicago, with Lithuanian-born Aivaras Abromavicius as economy minister and Georgian Alexander Kvitashvili as health minister.
By opting to recruit “outsiders”, Ukraine may be attempting to secure international institutions’ trust says Ievgen Vorobiov from the Polish Institute of International Affairs. But it could also be seen as a way to “shift responsibility for contentious reforms”, he adds.
One of Europe’s biggest proponents of free speech, Iceland’s reputation has been brought into question by budget cuts at state broadcaster RÚV and increasing insecurity at other media outlets.