21st Mar 2018

Defensive Germany calls for more EU backing

  • Germany is frequently criticised in other EU countries (Photo: Valentina Pop)

A defensive Germany has said it should be getting more support from the EU institutions against unfair criticism over its role in handling the eurozone crisis.

"Germany is bringing a spirit of solidarity so that ultimately there is a perspective for crisis countries," justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told Wednesday's edition of the Muencher Merkur newspaper.

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"So I wish that individuals at the highest levels of the EU - the commission president and the Council president - would also show solidarity with us and defend Germans against unjust accusations," she added.

Her words come after Germany was the subject of strong criticism for its handling of the Cyprus bailout package, a deal shaped by Berlin but which is likely to result in years of hardship for ordinary Cypriots.

Protests on the island have seen placards with Chancellor Angela Merkel depicted as Hitler. Similar incidences have happened in Greece, another hard-hit bailed-out country. The recent Italian election campaign was also peppered with anti-German sentiment.

Meanwhile, Spain's El Pais newspaper earlier this week ran a guest column by Spanish economist Juan Torres Lopez, in which he wrote: “Angela Merkel, like Hitler, has declared war on the rest of the continent, this time to guarantee Germany its vital economic space.”

Germany has driven the eurozone's response to the crisis, insisting on austerity measures to bring ballooning budget deficits down before it shows financial solidarity.

Germans for their part like what Merkel is doing - she is the most popular politician in Germany - and feel they are within their rights to make demands when they will foot the lion's share of the bailout money.

That Germany is doing the right thing by the eurozone and is not getting its due credit has been increasingly espoused in editorials in some of the countries most influential newspapers, including in the tabloid Bild and in the right-leaning Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

But it is unusual for high-ranking politicians to speak out directly on the subject.

According to Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger: "We have to present these decisions together and we have to defend them together. I have heard much of that yet."

Her statements come the same day that Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble declined to apologise over the €10 billion Cyprus deal.

He put the criticism coming Germany's way down to jealousy.

"It is always like this, also in the classroom. When you sometimes have better results, then the others, who have more difficulties, are a bit jealous," he told the ZDF broadcaster.

The crisis and the Germanophobia it has sparked has caused unease among some Germans.

“The drama over Cyprus has made clear that the euro zone crisis is developing into a struggle over German hegemony in Europe,” journalist Jakob Augstein wrote in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.

"Just like twice before in our recent history, the Germans are falling deeper and deeper into conflict with their neighbours - regardless of the cost," he added.

The "hegemony" point was also used by Jean Asselborn, foreign minister of Luxembourg, normally an ally of Germany.

"Germany does not have the right to decide on the business model for other countries in the EU," he said after Berlin had described Cyprus' business model - which is very similar to Luxembourg's - as finished.

In an interview with Reuters, he accused Germany and others critical of Cyprus of "striving for hegemony, which is wrong and un-European."


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