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Tabloid picture of Merkel in Bismarck’s helmet bodes ill for Greek settlement

Bild, the German tabloid’s front page yesterday, reminds us of the sheer nastiness that surrounds the Greek crisis. The headlines read: “No new billions for Greece. Today we need an Iron Chancellor.

Bild front page

Germany needs Angela Merkel to be like Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor according to Bild, the biggest selling German newspaper.

Bismark is the man who in the 19th century built German as a power in Europe. One of the things he did was engineer the Franco-Prussian War of 1871-72.

This morning it looks as if disagreement between German and France is the barrier to finding a sensible way of avoiding Grexit.

While Merkel, with popular press and political colleagues at her back is in no mood to compromise, François Hollande believes a solution must be found. Today the Guardian suggests Hollande should become the mediator between Greece and Germany.

If Germans want to learn lessons from history they should not be looking at Bismarck. Instead they should remember it was the harsh treatment of Germany by the allies after the First World War that led to the rise of Hitler and the Second World War.  The lessons of that episode were the background when in 1952 German debt was forgiven.

Wikipedia points out:

An important term of the agreement was that repayments were only due while West Germany ran a trade surplus, and that repayments were limited to 3% of export earnings. This gave Germany’s creditors a powerful incentive to import German goods, assisting reconstruction.

It was only in 2010 that the last payment, 69.9bn Euros, was paid.

This week the European Union faces an existential threat. If Greece exits the consequences are unfathomable, smaller Eurozone countries will be unsettled, anti-EU sentiments across the continent will become stronger and the chances UK exit increased. The image of Merkel in a Prussian helmet is a powerful one: of a bully.

Someone has to break the impasse.




Greek crisis is fast becoming a domestic UK matter

If Greece is forced out of the Eurozone by the intransigence of the Germany and its allies the chances that the UK will vote to leave the UK will be greatly increased.

Who would have expected Nigel Farage and the liberal Guardian to be roughly aligned in criticising Eurozone leaders, in particular Angela Merkel. But that is what is happening

Guardian leader today:

The biggest share of the responsibility for what happens next unavoidably falls on the German chancellor, both because she is, in theory, the strongest of Europe’s leaders and because part of her electorate is resistant to such a plea [for a human response].

The picture is emerging of a German view that Greece is an expendable part of the Eurozone and probably the EU too.

If debt relief is eventually agreed and Greece stays in the Eurozone the picture of a bullying Germany, supported by European Commission President Jean Claude Junker, will remain. It is a picture that will play strongly when the UK votes in the referendum on EU membership.

Ladbrokes, the bookmakers yesterday said yesterday odds on Britain leaving were cut to 3/1 from 7/2. Odds can and will change but they are a warning to those who want to stay in that they are going to have to campaign much harder.

The complacent view that the majority of UK voters support continued membership is no longer enough. But the argument becomes more difficult.