Thursday

8th Dec 2016

Europe still has 'sleeping war demons'

Former Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker has warned of "sleeping war demons" in Europe and compared the current situation to the year before the outbreak of the first world war, when everybody took peace for granted.

"For my generation the common currency always meant politics of peace. Today I am to some extent saddened to see that too many in Europe are again lost in petty national thought processes," the Luxembourg Prime Minister said in an interview with Der Spiegel published on Monday (11 March).

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He criticised German politicians who attacked Greece when the crisis started and "left deep wounds" in the southern country.

"I was equally shocked by the banners in Athens protests depicting Chancellor Merkel in a Nazi uniform. Suddenly these resentments reappeared, that we had thought were long gone. The Italian election campaign was also excessively hostile against Germany and therefore anti-European."

"Those who think that the question of war can never be raised in Europe any more may be massively wrong. The demons are not gone, they are only sleeping, as the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo have shown. I am astounded to what extent the European situation today is similar to 100 years ago," Juncker said, in reference to 1913, the year before the first world war broke out.

"There are striking parallels to 1913 in respect to carelessness. Many in Europe back then thought a war could never happen again. The big powers on the continent were economically so closely intertwined that there was a widespread belief they could simply not afford a military conflict. Especially in northern and western Europe there was a deep complacency stemming from the idea that peace was forever granted."

But still Juncker insisted that governments need to stick with unpopular austerity measure that are driving people to the streets in protest.

"You cannot adopt wrong policies just because you're afraid of not being re-elected. Those in government must take responsibility for their country and for Europe as a whole."

No plans for Van Rompuy's job

Already 18 years in office, the longest-serving prime minister of an EU country said he plans to run again in Luxembourg's general elections next year.

"I still want to achieve some things for my country. Experience is not a disadvantage, especially for the prime minister of a small country in a European environment that has become more difficult," Juncker said.

He strongly rejected the idea that he may succeed EU council chief Herman Van Rompuy next year when his mandate ends. "Why would I want to become something that I could have in 2009? This is, frankly, too stupid," Juncker said. He recalled that in 2009 he had a large majority for the job, but that "some" didn't want him back then - in reference to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"You can get it black on white here: I exclude the possibility to become the successor of Herman Van Rompuy."

Analysis

Austrian far-right: beaten, but not defeated

Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer's loss to Green-backed Alexander Van der Bellen sent relief across Europe, but his party is still in a good position to head a government in the future.

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