A week end’s edition of Germany‘s Handelsblatt, a paper entirely about economics, provided some interesting reading. Over 8 pages writers and columnists reported from France, Greece, Spain, Ireland, Britain and what the people think of Germany during the current Euro crisis. A content analysis.
The ugly Germans?
As chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel had to endure a lot of negative press over the last year, especially when it became obvious that Greece and increasingly other countries too, are in serious danger. However, it will not be argued what kind of nature this crisis has or is. Be it ‘debt crisis’ or ‘Euro crisis’ or a ‘crisis of trust’. In the press of many countries the image of the ‘Ugly Germans’ has re-surfaced depicting Angela Merkel with a Hitler moustache and in uniform.
Indeed it is arguable whether her idea of ‘prosperity through austerity’ is the right way out of the crisis. For further reading into this matter it is suggested to refer to Nachdenkseiten, where the policy of Angela Merkel and her fellow politicians are examined on a daily basis.
The image that is being used is that of Germany denying help to other countries who need help but would have to accept harsh austerity measurements. As a result the unemployment in the countries concerned: Greece and Spain but others are likely to follow, has increased sharply, due to those actions demanding to cut public spending in order to regain the trust of the markets.
Germany: The root of all evil?
Greek blogs and commentators ask how it is possible that Germany is seen as the root of all evil in their country. Some argued that Merkel is a true patriot! Another pledges that she loves her country and will do everything to improve her country unlike Greek politicians who enriched themselves and left a mess behind them. True, Greece’s government had different ideas how to run a country successfully.
A critical voice however, stated that Germany aims for a Germanized Europe instead of a european Germany. In other words, Merkel is continuing Hitler’s work of conquering Europe, yet by other means. This picture has been used to describe Kohl’s policy of unifying Europe in the early 1990s. Not a lot has changed, it seems. Ironically, one commentator stated that Merkel was a light weight in comparison to elder statesmen like Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl.
Merkel is right, support her!
The support for Germany is far bigger in France then is thought when one listens to Francoise Hollande criticizing the austerity programmes. Between the neighbours it is always a comparison of sorts. The French consider the German education system to be better than theirs. Also, they see the Germans as people willing to work instead of relying on benefits.
The German education system is far from good as it is seriously underfunded. The academic sector will soon be a carcass, held together by its dubious reputation. The benefits in Germany are a slap in the face. Many work full time and would be better off not to bother working at all. There is no minimum wage in Germany. As a result some employees get net wages of €3 per hour. Talk about a booming economy with this in mind.
For French people the Germans appear to be more disciplined which in their eyes is considered positive. Sadly, it is the Germans who need a kick up their backside in order to initiate change, which is long overdue.
More Hollande, less Merkel
The Spanish blogosphere is unison in declaring Germany not guilty for their problems. True, some of them are home made. The image of Germany in Spain has suffered over the last months and some reason that the negative Euro 201 experience might be the cause for it. The sociologist Ignacio Ramonet labelled Merkel’s policy ‘economic sadism.’ Quite rightly. Therefore, the calls for more power and influence for Francois Hollande are understandable. Since the beginning of the year Merkel and Germany have lost popularity among the Spanish and Francoise Hollande, without having done anything has leapfrogged them without a big effort. Admittedly, polls are often misleading but it is interpreted that the Spanish want ‘more Hollande and less Merkel.’
Again, some bloggers turn the attention to their own political class and blame them instead of Germany. Spain has had the same problems with its politicians it seems. But is there a country where the population is a 100 per cent content and at peace with their government? Dictatorships and authoritarian countries are not included in this tally, of course.
Italy: A German protectorate?
The Italians are equally not happy with their situation and the persons who have caused it. Among them, a certain Silvio Berlusconi. One commentator argued that Italy would not be in the miserable situation had they a leader like Angela Merkel. It is doubtful if she had the guts to challenge the Mafia. Another argued that Germany’s stance towards Euro Bonds is totally understandable as they would not like to guarantee for some one else’s debts. This is actually a very good point and yet completely misses the point. Germany is the cause of Italy’s and other countries debt.
The best idea however, came from Beppe Grillo a political blogger. He suggested to sell Italy to Germany and even out the debts through the sale. In return, the Germans would have a balcony with a view over the Mediterranean Sea; a German Protectorate. Certainly a splendid idea if this would not cause more German greed like it did in 1938.
What many overlook is the fact that the German economy is based on exports exclusively. There is a reason that the most important German news magazine, Tagesschau, one day reported that Germany has lost its position as the leading exporting nation to China in the early 2000s.
The Third World War
While a Spanish commentator expressed his or her hopes that Germany would start a third world war, a British blogger is certain that this has already happened. K. J. MacDougall argues that it is an economic war Britain is fighting against the Germans. His colleague ‘Guyburgess’ meanwhile was sure that this is the Germany, Mrs. Thatcher has always warned of. Normally, those kind of words were associated with the sports press in England, particularly in 1996 in some sections of the tabloid press.
The best way to react to this was shown by the Irish football fans in Poland this year:
Admittedly, it is not easy to stay clear of trouble and criticism in these times of severe crisis. However, some of the bloggers had something valuable to say, others just haven’t got a clue. It is Germany who caused the debt of many of these countries, not alone of course. In Europe however, Germany has outfought many competitors with its low wages. It is therefore up to Germany to deliver ideas how to solve the debt problem? No. Not alone. It is a community and problems should be solved within the community.
- Angela Merkel ‘profoundly disturbed’ after poll shows over half of Germans believe they would be better off without euro (dailymail.co.uk)
- German support for Merkel’s crisis handling erodes: poll (news.yahoo.com)
- Debt crisis: Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande pledge to back euro (telegraph.co.uk)
- Debt crisis: Germany’s Angela Merkel and Italian PM Mario Monti vow to protect euro (telegraph.co.uk)
- Eurogroup chair sees decisions soon in debt crisis (mysanantonio.com)
- Angela Merkel Is Playing You For Fools (businessinsider.com)
- German president tells Angela Merkel to come clean on EU debt deal (telegraph.co.uk)