Germany pays billions to bankrupt states, it is about to lose its AAA+ Rating (as France just did on Saturday the 01-14-2012) and all of the above mentioned sacrifices are without any benefits. This information is the wide spread opinion, broadcasted by BILD, Focus, et al, disparagingly called the “royal court newspapers” of Germany. These newspapers create the opinion, according to a representative survey1, that 46 percent, almost one in two, German residents believes that Germany would be better off without the European Union.
Germans must not forget: Germany has benefited the most from the internal market and the common currency in the EU as an exporting nation with a total growth of 9 % in 5 years, between the years of 2004 to 2008.2
Saving Greece is not a matter of social commitment to the Greek population: it is the protection of the Euro, and therewith of Germany, which due to low cost credits has significantly contributed towards an over-indebtedness of Greece or even enabled deficit spending.
It is appalling to see the determination with which the value of the Greek population is downgraded in the public opinion while, simultaneously, satisfaction in German media is rising, and to also see that German politicians are evoking envy, distrust, and hate towards Greece in a populist manner. Part of the explanation undoubtedly lies in the picture Germans get of their southern neighbours. The most read newspapers in German have increasingly been describing the Greeks as genuinely lazy, chaotic, and undisciplined and thus are making it easier for them to be disenfranchised (as it was one idea to take away the votes of underperforming countries). It is not as much about questioning their membership in the European Union or cultural differences as it is about doubting their civic competence. I call it “liberal racism”.
In addition to Greek-bashing, complaining about the politics of lending money to Greece is a misperception. Germany hasn’t paid a cent, quite the opposite. Frankly speaking, the German Finance minister is borrowing money on the markets for 2 % (a few days ago, Germany was even paid by its credit grantors to borrow money) and forwards it to Greece for 5 %. This makes an annual profit of more than 300 Million for lending 10 Billion. It is undisputed that there is a risk of losing this money, but there are also chances of getting rich instead, on the debts of others, as well as in terms of benefiting in terms of stability of the whole system: bailing-out Greece while complaining is not an option for the longer term. German politicians must stop blaming others. Instead they ought to start speaking frankly to their population, explaining to them the reasons behind their actions and the benefits of being a member of the EU, which compensate for the drawbacks. The profits are only possible if everyone pays for his piece of the cake.
The project of Europe only works if every country is working together and doing everything in its power to strengthen the Union. The majority needs to benefit from it and not just a small Elite who attempt to set nations against one another using ancient prejudices.
The average citizen did not profit from the last economic upturn. The last poverty report by Joint Welfare Association3 shows that the highly praised economic upturn does not help the poor.
There is no reality in claims such as: “the” Greek lives in the lap of luxury, retired by 55′ and there is just as little reality in other claims like ‘The John Q. Public of Germany is benefiting by 300 Million, paid by Greece.’
In that regard we Europeans should take better care of one another, instead of blaming each other – it just ties up resources, but does not lead to the desired objective.
1. Emnid-Survey, 11.12.11 http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/0,1518,803065,00.html (unfortunately only available in German)
2. Federal Statistical Office Germany – Gross domestic product since 1970 (Excel sheet ) http://www.destatis.de/jetspeed/portal/cms/Sites/destatis/Internet/EN/Content/
3. Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband – Poverty report 2011 http://www.der-paritaetische.de/startseite/artikel/news/verhaertete-armut-paritaetischer-legt-armutsbericht-2011-vor/