COMMENT

Germans saying what Greeks won't

By Pantelis Boukalas

?he leadership of Europe?s change in stance toward Greece is anything but irrelevant, unless we admit that politics was finally beaten by the market.

We don?t need to put a philhellenic twist on it, but recently three former chancellors of Germany, its president and one of the five wise men who advise the current chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke in a manner that defies the prevailing sentiment in Greece which casts Germans as the villains.

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for Greece to be granted an extension to its fiscal adjustment program, saying that no society, no government, can withstand the kind of cuts that the country?s foreign creditors are demanding of it.

Helmut Kohl, Germany?s longest-serving chancellor, advised that Germany needs to show more patience as far as Greece is concerned, while Helmut Schmidt, the Social Democrat who served as chancellor between 1974 to 1982, accused Merkel of being partially responsible for the negative way in which she is portrayed in certain countries, adding that Germany has not contributed a single euro from its budget to Greece.

Peter Bofinger, a member of Merkel?s council of outside economic advisers, recently pointed out (in agreement with many other experts) that the recipe of merciless austerity has failed in Greece, Portugal, Spain and everywhere else it has been applied.

German President Joachim Gauck went even further, saying that Germans are not the educators of Europe and that no nation has the right to teach others lessons.

Even the German news magazine Focus, which has been especially critical of Athens in the past, has suggested that the austerity measures for Greece be relaxed.

These statements mean a lot more than Merkel?s assurances that her ?heart bleeds? for the Greeks. They are statements made calmly and rationally, the kind, in fact, that we would expect from our politicians and political leadership. And we would expect our own lot to make similar statements openly and honestly, not through ridiculous leaks and bashful criticism of the troika?s directives. We have heard them threaten so many times that they will not cross their ?red lines? and seen them slamming their fists on tables, while the sum of all of this political bravado is zero.

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