OPINION

Hippos and frogs

In a scathing article on Gerhard Schroeder published a few months ago, an American commentator pointed out that no German politician running on an anti-American platform had ever been elected chancellor in the country’s postwar history. But there’s always a first time. Reversing the strong conservative momentum, the Red-Green coalition won the elections on the platform of Berlin’s weaning itself off the USA. Germany’s objections, of course, will not hinder the Bush administration from striking at Iraq. Nor are they a prelude to a head-on collision between the two powers of the transatlantic alliance. However, they do constitute an important step in the progress toward Germany’s political emancipation – a course that was embarked on with Schroeder’s rise to power (he was the first leader not to have experienced World War II) and the moving of the German capital to Berlin. Absolved from the burden of Nazism, having come to terms which its past, a reunified Germany intends to shake off its postwar destiny of simultaneously being an economic giant and a political dwarf and, instead, behave as a normal big power. This will become even more evident in inter-European power relations after the EU’s expansion to the east – Berlin’s traditional sphere of interest. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s enthusiasm for Schroeder’s victory is justified from a party leader’s narrow perspective. But from the broader perspective of Greece’s foreign policy, things are a bit more complex. The gradual, albeit persistent, tension between an arrogant American administration and an increasingly «German» Europe, raises serious dilemmas for a small country such as Greece which has, politically and economically, tied its fate to the EU but which still depends on the USA as far as some outstanding foreign policy issues are concerned. Needless to say, when the hippos fight, it’s the frogs that get squashed.