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.
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.