A tiny incident at Paris airport that speaks volumes about our Europe – the whole story

Small incidents can pack hefty messages. Yesterday afternoon, a tiny drama unfolded at Paris airport, as I was disembarking the airplane that had brought me over from Athens. It speaks volumes about the state of our European Union and the drift toward inane authoritarianism.

A French policeman, for no obvious reason, took it to himself to be hostile and to manhandle me after having checked and returned my passport. As I conclude in my official complaint (lodged by my lawyers) with the French Police,

  • As a European citizen, I refuse to accept the normalization of such behaviour at any border crossing of the European Union, especially Schengen Treaty borders that the European Union was meant to have done away with.
  • As a Greek citizen, and also as an elected member of Greece’s Parliament, it is incumbent upon me to demonstrate against such behaviour aimed at any citizen of the Republic of Greece.

PS1. Thankfully, videos recorded by fellow passengers (see here and here) leave no room for doubt regarding the incident

PS. I was amused to hear that the perpetrator-policeman is planning to… sue me. This is, of course, absurd. For if I had violated the law in any way, he should arrest me. Policemen arrest citizens for legal transgressions and only citizens sue police for abuse of power.

OFFICIAL COMPLAINT ON INCIDENT AT CHD AIRPORT

Time: 17.23

Day: Saturday 13th July 2019

Upon arrival at CHD airport, and as I was exiting the airplane (Aegean Airways, A3 612), police officer No. 1059129, standing within the ramp two meters from the airplane door, asked to see my passport.

I presented my passport to him, as instructed. Even though he seemed satisfied that the passport was in good order, he seemed reluctant to return it and had a hostile expression. A few moments later he returned the passport to me but, as I was about to leave, he positioned himself in the middle of the corridor, with his elbows extended rather aggressively, leaving little room to pass him by without touching him.

With my passport in hand, I walked past him on his right, my right elbow touching his right elbow. The moment our elbows touched (an inevitability, given his posture), he reacted violently. I looked at him and said that it was unbecoming of an officer to behave that way to a visitor. In response, he grabbed my passport and asked me to stand against the wall.

I refused and immediately demanded to speak to his superior officer. He reacted even more aggressively, refusing to call upon anyone. At that point I told him that, though his behaviour was unacceptable towards any visitor, regardless of status, I refused to tolerate such behaviour towards all Greek citizens also as a freshly re-elected member of Greek Parliament.

It took more than half an hour for his superior officer to arrive. During that time, the whole airplane walked by me and officer 1059129 maintained his aggression. On a couple of occasions he asked me to follow him. I refused loudly on the grounds that his aggressive behaviour made him a clear and present danger to me and, also, on the strength of my request to speak to his superiors – a request that was being denied on the pretext that there was no superior officer nearby. Surely, I said, in a sensitive facility like an airport it would not be that hard for a more senior officer to be in hand.

In the end, a superior officer (No. 1222366) arrived. Though (unlike officer 1059129), he was not aggressive, he failed to resolve the issue quickly and maintained a rudeness at odds with what one would expect of a senior officer of the French police serving at the nations’ welcoming hub.

After explaining to superior officer No. 1222366 what had happened, I asked for my passport and for an apology. He said he had to talk to his officer first. After speaking with him, he said that his officer wants to lodge a complaint against… me! Meanwhile, officer 1059129 was holding on to my passport. I, thus, demanded of superior officer No. 1222366 that either my passport be returned or I should be arrested. At that point, he seemed to worry sufficiently to return my passport.

In conclusion, with the present letter, I am formally requesting a formal apology from the French police.

As an elected member of Greece’s Parliament, it is incumbent upon me to demonstrate against such behaviour aimed at any citizen of the Republic of Greece.

As a European citizen, I refuse to accept the normalization of such behaviour at any border crossing of the European Union, especially Schengen Treaty borders that the European Union was meant to have done away with.

Yanis Varoufakis