The wise pastor of Europe


Back in the days of his soaring popularity, Yanis Varoufakis, then the finance minister of the first SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition government, referred to his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, as the “wise man” of Europe. The comment was made on the eve of Varoufakis’s first meeting with Dr Schaeuble.

The courtesy fell on deaf ears. The German politician concluded that his Greek counterpart’s aim was to flatter him as a means of earning some concessions. He did not realize the honesty in the words of Varoufakis, who would become a familiar TV face thanks to his head-on collision with the man considered to be the very incarnation of political strength and decisiveness. Calling Dr Schaeuble “wise” was probably yet another example of Varoufakis’s lack of judgment.

Europe has become accustomed to the German minister’s preaching style. His US counterpart, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, went as far as to refer to Dr Schaeuble’s “theological” approach to economic issues. Talking about the refugee crisis and Greece on Boxing Day, Schaeuble argued that any country unable to control its borders should exit Schengen.

Surely Dr Schaeuble failed to realize that the migrant flow took on an uncontrollable dimension when German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany would absorb a million people for humanitarian, and more importantly, demographic reasons.

Dr Schaeuble is a politician and as a result uses data to serve his own purposes. In the same Boxing Day interview, however, the politician gave way to the pastor who argued that Greeks should not be blaming others for their problems, but take a look at how they could improve themselves. He failed to mention the penances, however. Or perhaps not, as these were determined in the adjustment program.

But besides all that he also suggested the creation of a European army to tackle the crises in the Middle East and North Africa. The issue had not been raised in a few decades. Dr Schaeuble, of course, was not referring to a Wehrmacht revival. With the exception of Britain, and up to a certain degree France, no other European country has any field experience in those areas, where any military intervention would be unthinkable without US participation.

Dr Schaeuble never aspired to become Europe’s wise man or pastor. His own ambition was to become chancellor, but that was ruled out by Helmut Kohl. Now he wants to be proclaimed Germany’s president, but Merkel has major objections. As a result, we’re in for even more enlightened talk from Europe’s wise pastor.