Europe

Greece debt: Confusion in Varoufakis middle finger row

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Media captionYanis Varoufakis apparently used a middle-finger gesture when talking about the eurozone crisis in 2010

A German comedian has sparked confusion after claiming that he faked a controversial video apparently showing Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis raising his middle finger to Germany.

Satirist Jan Boehmermann said he doctored the video, which caused controversy after airing on German TV.

But he later said the clip had been taken out of context.

Mr Varoufakis denies making the sign. The row comes ahead of crucial talks between Greece and EU leaders.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet leaders on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday as the risk of Greek bankruptcy rises.

'Run-around'

Mr Varoufakis praised Mr Boehmermann for mocking the row after the comedian released a satirical video apparently showing his team doctoring the footage.

"We politicians need you badly," Mr Varoufakis said on Twitter.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Talk show host Jan Boehmermann (left) claimed to have manipulated a video used on Guenther Jauch's show

The footage from 2013 shows him saying that Greece should announce that it is defaulting and "stick the finger to Germany", while he makes an offensive gesture.

Mr Varoufakis denied using the gesture and said the footage was a fake after it was shown during the Guenther Jauch weekly talk show on Germany's ARD channel on Sunday. He called for an apology.

Mr Boehmermann, host of satirical programme Neo Magazin Royale on public broadcaster ZDF, later released a video claiming to have doctored the footage using 'green screen' technology and editing software.

But later in the video he says Mr Varoufakis was incorrect to say the footage was a fake and that it had been taken out of context.

Addressing Guenther Jauch, he says: "You simply took it out of context and gave him the run-around, so that the average German could pursue their passion for being angered."

Mr Boehmermann's video sparked contrasting media reports and fierce discussion on social media, with the hashtag #varoufake trending worldwide.

'Posturing'

Broadcaster ZDF said on Thursday it was considering highlight the satirical nature of the Neo Magazin Royale show in the future.

Meanwhile Mr Varoufakis has posted a link on Twitter to what he said was "undoctored" footage of him speaking at a 2013 event in the Croatian capital, Zagreb.

In the 57 minute-long discussion, he talks about the eurozone crisis talks in 2010, and says he had suggested at that time that Greece should "stick the finger to Germany", while using the offending gesture.

Earlier in the week, the man who said he filmed the event also said the clip had been taken out of context.

Martin Beros said German television stations and other mainstream media channels had sensationalised the incident.

"The serious political and economic situation is being presented as if it is reducible to gestures and posturing."

The dispute between Greece and its international creditors is not on the formal agenda of the EU summit in Brussels this week, but talks are expected to take place on the sidelines.

The country's new leftist PM needs EU support for reforms to unlock vital funds, avoid possible bankruptcy and a eurozone exit.

He has pledged to end austerity - but his plans have met resistance from Greece's EU creditors, with Germany among the most critical.

Greece negotiated a four-month extension to its bailout last month after tense talks.

Eurozone leaders say they are are ready to extend help on Greece's €240bn (£176bn; $272bn) bailout until the end of June.