Well is it coming again?
Angela Merkel’s Germany has begun to polarize Europe.
“Under the glass Reichstag dome in Germany’s parliament last week, left-wing opposition leader Gregor Gysi lit into Chancellor Angela Merkel for saddling Greece with a staggering unemployment rate, devastating wage cuts, and “soup kitchens upon soup kitchens.”
The chancellor, sitting a few steps away with a blank expression on her face, scrolled through her smartphone.
Ms. Merkel’s power after a decade in office has become seemingly untouchable, both within Germany and across Europe. But with the “no” vote in Sunday’s Greek referendum on bailout terms posing the biggest challenge yet to decades of European integration, risks to the European project resulting from Germany’s rise as the Continent’s most powerful country are becoming clear.”
So said today’s Wall Street Journal.
Spanish anti-austerity leader Pablo Iglesias said on Friday “We don’t want to be a German colony!”. Italian populist Beppe Grillo said, “Now Merkel and bankers will have food for thought.” On Monday, Ms. Merkel flew to Paris for crisis talks amid signs the French government was resisting Berlin’s hard line on Greece.
Despite a small military and an inward looking public Germany appears to have greater influence on European and world affairs than at any time since World War II.
“With every crisis in which Chancellor Merkel acts as the Continent’s go-to problem solver, the message to many other Europeans is that for all the lip service about the common “European project,” it is the Germans and faceless bureaucrats in Brussels who run the show.”
The push back against Germany is likely to grow stronger if the euro-zone crisis worsens and as Germany’s policies grow more assertive. Last week the face of the stern German Finance Minister appeared on posters in Athens urging a “no” vote – “He’s been sucking your blood for five years! Vote No!”.
“They want to humiliate Greece to send a warning to Spain, Portugal and Italy,” Hilario Montero, a pensioner at a pro-Greece demonstration in Madrid recently, said of Berlin and Brussels. “The message is you are not allowed to cross the lines they set.”
Greece presents the most direct test for Merkel’s Europe. Her government played the biggest role in shaping the austerity-and-reform conditions for euro zone bailouts and was the most influential voice resisting debt relief for Greece.
“Last September, then-Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras flew to Berlin and appealed to Ms. Merkel. Unpopular economic measures required of Greece under bailout terms —including changes to pensions and taxation as well as the rules involving labor, banks and the public payroll—were feeding the rise of a radical left-wing movement, Syriza, he said.
Merkel held firm and pushed back against offering debt relief. German officials advised the Greeks to tackle tough reforms right away.
Mr. Samaras, amid rising Greek anger over economically stifling austerity measures, lost the election to Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras in January. As the crisis intensified under the new government’s tougher negotiating style, German influence grew even more unmistakable.”
Grumblings in the E.U over Merkels clash with Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine crisis has strained relations within Europe as countries, from Italy to Hungary have chafed at having to put their close ties to Russia on ice amid Merkel’s push for sanctions.
On the EU’s eastern periphery, Germany’s leadership on Ukraine stirred discomfort in Poland and the Baltic states. Poland felt it needed more NATO troops on it’s soil for security. Germany, after ensuring that every E.U. member, including Poland, voted for sanctions, was opposed to further antagonizing Russia and left the Poles hanging out to dry. A Polish official accused Merkel of “toying with Poland’s very existence again”
The Greek crisis and it’s potential exit from both the Euro zone and the E.U. will lead to greater resistance against increasing German hegemony in Europe.
Claudia Major, a security specialist at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said: “If Greece were to leave the eurozone, this may someday be seen as the beginning of the end of the project of European integration—when the Germans were not in the position, as the leading power in shaping Europe, to be able to resolve things with the Greeks.”