• Berlin
  • Konrad Werner: Give Greece a chance


Konrad Werner: Give Greece a chance

Merkel isn't as evil as everyone outside Germany says, but now would be a good time for German politicians to stop wagging their fingers at Athens.

Image for Konrad Werner: Give Greece a chance
Angela Merkel and Nicos Anastasiades at the EPP Summit, March 2012. Photo by the European People’s Party (Wikimedia Commons)

The aftermath of the Greek election has exposed the gap between what people think of Angela Merkel here and what they think of her in other countries. For example, Owen Jones, the usually fair and good-hearted columnist in The Guardian, thinks she’s “the most monstrous western European leader of this generation,” who inflicted “economic cruelty on a mass scale, trashing the lives of millions.” And it isn’t just socialists. As Jeremy Warner in the Telegraph pointed out, Merkel-bashing is a trendy new sport now – even the governor of the Bank of England went in for a “full-frontal attack on Berlin’s austerity agenda,” because apparently he’s only just now noticed it isn’t working. When London bankers are starting to sound like the German Left party five years ago, you know something must be wrong.

But Merkel isn’t evil. She’s just not as competent as she appears – especially to Germans. She thought she was saving Europe and the euro, and instead she dragged Greece into a recession that’s worse, so the experts say, than the Great Depression – this is a country where unemployment is at 27 percent, youth unemployment at 50 percent, and suicide rates and child mortality are both rising. But the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (which has for nearly 70 years been in the business of fucking over weak countries by forcing them to accept crippling public funding cuts for the sake of enriching financial speculators) are at least as much to blame, and anyway, it’s not like the other European countries offered much resistance. And yet, for one reason or another, Merkel’s austere face has become the face of “austerity”. It’s not like other German politicians are any better though. Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, supposedly a Social Democrat, and his oily party colleague Thomas Oppermann joined all those pompous CDU bastards this week in “warning” Greece to pay back its insane debts (which have risen since the austerity program started) and stick to the program. 

These are the kind of patronizing, moralizing insults that got Syriza elected in the first place, and now would be the time for German politicians to stop offering them. Because when the ECB has decided to start printing money to get out of this mess, and the Bank of England and the US Treasury Secretary are telling you you’ve been doing it all wrong, maybe you’ve been doing it all wrong. “European officials would be well-advised to skip the lectures,” Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times. “The fact is they have no credibility; the program they imposed on Greece never made sense. It had no chance of working.” So maybe it’s time to stop wagging your finger and give the new Greek government a chance.