ATHENS/BERLIN (Own report) – German politicians are reacting to the Greek government’s call for a partial remission of its debts and its throwing the EU-Troika out of the country, with ultimatums. “Tsipras had better cease his attacks on Angela Merkel,” threatened the European Parliament’s President Martin Schulz (SPD). “Beating up on the Germans” is “shortsighted.” State-financed German media organs are castigating Greece’s newly elected head of state as “obstinate” and complaining that he “is jeering,” “Germany is only one country among others.” US experts warn that in the EU’s crisis countries, the German austerity dictate has resulted in “a level of misery” “that surpasses the limits of tolerance for a democratic society,” and suggest that Greece be dealt with pragmatically – a partial debt remission along the lines of the London Debt Conference 1952/1953 model. Two years ago, Greece’s new Minister of Finance Giannis Varoufakis had already called on Germany to shift from an “authoritarian” to a “hegemonic policy” that would not use its economic power to hold the EU countries down, but to allow them to participate in the hegemonic benefits, as Washington had once done for the Federal Republic of Germany with its Marshall Plan. Varoufakis wrote explicitly, “Europe” does not need an “authoritarian” but “a hegemonic Germany.”
The new Greek government’s announcement that it was no longer tolerating the country’s submission to the supervision of the Troika, comprised of the EU, the ECB (European Central Bank) and the IMF, has triggered German threats. “Our country refuses to cooperate with the Troika,” announced Finance Minister Giannis Varoufakis Friday and, referring to the fact that the Troika’s rejection had brought the new government an overwhelming electoral victory, added, “our first action cannot be to relinquish this standpoint.” Instead, Varoufakis is calling for an international conference – along the lines of the London Debt Conference – 1952/53 model. What had been granted, at the time, to the Nazi Reich’s successor state, cannot be refused to Greece. Part of the solution, in any case, must be a significant remission of debt – sixty percent is being discussed.
“Outrageous” and “Obstinate”
The establishment in Berlin is fuming. Criticism of the German Chancellor is undesirable, declared European Parliamentary President, Martin Schulz (SPD). “Tsipras had better cease his attacks on Angela Merkel.” “Beating up on the Germans,” is “shortsighted.” German attacks on Tsipras and the new Greek government have not ceased. They have intensified. “Greece runs amok,” according to a column in the state-financed Deutsche Welle. Athens is as “obstinate” as a little kid, the government is a “demolition commando,” a “chaos battalion,” whose objective is “to pull the entire EU down in its maelstrom.” “Tsipras and his crew” substitute “irrationality and bad manners for reason and realism.” Over the next few days, Tsipras will visit Rome, Paris and London to garner support for his demands, even though “the British” are not members of the Eurozone and should “keep their mouths shut on this issue.” He is not coming to Berlin. “Germany is merely one country among others, jeered the Greek Prime Minister.”
Alliances against Athens
Berlin remains unmoved. Commentaries in the media are characterized by debates on the best way to bring Athens to its knees. “Forge alliances against Athens,” is the recommendation made by the Deutsche Welle, for example. Talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President François Hollande Friday evening to help prevent Paris from reaching accords with the Greek government were a step in the right direction. “First of all, let them come,” advises the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The new Greek government, with its headlong surges, is making itself unpopular “throughout half of Europe.” “Angela Merkel is waiting,” the article continues. “That is the right strategy.” The paper recommends that dissention between Greece and other EU countries should be used to pit the latter against Athens. “Greece is also allowed to quarrel with other countries.”
“Hegemonic rather than Authoritarian”
Already two years ago, Greece’s new Finance Minister Varoufakis expressed himself unambiguously on German policy, warning that a change of course was needed – one that does not even put into question German hegemony over the EU. Varoufakis had simply pointed out, “Germany’s disciplinarian imposition of the greatest austerity upon the weakest of Europeans,” will “backfire with mathematical precision,” causing Greek debts to soar. This is an “authoritarian,” ultimately counterproductive policy. Varoufakis then expressed the hope that there would be a shift from an “authoritarian” to a “hegemonic Germany.” Hegemonic in the sense of it supporting its partners with costly, but long-term measures – similar to how the United States supported its allies with its Marshall Plan after the war – that lets them share, to a certain extent, in the hegemonic profits. “Europe needs a hegemonic Germany,” he writes, aimed not at austerity and domination, but rather at a certain participation in prosperity, which would stabilize the hegemony of the Federal Republic of Germany.
As shown by the current aggression against the government in Athens, Germany is incapable of making this shift. “For years, the Germans have determined the course of the Euro Zone,” writes one German daily with an unhabitual degree of self-criticism. “Representatives of problematic countries often feel talked down to and complain of Teutonic arrogance. At last Monday’s Eurogroup meeting, for example, the German Minister of Finances gave Eurogroup President, Dijsselbloem a severe dressing down, in the midst of the entire assembly, because he had wanted to fly to Athens, rather than summon the Greeks to Brussels. That is not the way you win friends in Europe.”