Protectorate-Like

ATHENS/BERLIN | | griechenland

ATHENS/BERLIN (Own report) - Last night, under strong popular protests, the Greek parliament accepted the latest "austerity package," that the German government had promoted in the form of an ultimatum. This "austerity package" will lead to a 20 percent cut in private revenue and the minimum wage, therefore also in the public sector wages, which are dependent on the minimum wage. One hundred fifty thousand government employees will be laid off. Criticism of Berlin has become sharper because of its efforts to transform Athens into a de facto EU finance protectorate, using so-called austerity commissioners. Demonstrators burned German flags; Greek parliamentarians have announced an initiative to remind that German World War II reparations are still outstanding. Since 1945, the Federal Republic of Germany has consistently refused not only to pay reparations, but also Nazi debts, even those undisputed by the German Reichsbank at the end of the war. These would amount to more than three billion Euros today. But, the debate continues in the German capital about the suspension of democracy in Greece.

Protests against Berlin

Berlin's brutal austerity dictate and the German media's on-going rabble-rousing anti-Greek ("bankrupt Greeks") propaganda has enflamed Greek protests against Germany for quite some time. Last summer, Greek demonstrators chanted "Germany out of the EU!", and displayed "Merkel = Nazi" banners at rallies. EU flags with a swastika in the center were occasionally seen. The memory that this is not the first time that Berlin has dictated Athens's policies, has recently been accompanied by references to Nazi rule in occupied Europe. Last week demonstrators outside of the Greek parliamentary building again chanted "Nazis Out!" while burning a German flag. Trade unionists also occupied the Athenian offices used by the German Horst Reichenbach and his "task force Greece," monitoring Athens's austerity measures, in the name of the EU Commission. These protests against Berlin's hegemonic dictate are defamed in the German media simply as "anti-German propaganda."

Old Debts

A few days ago, a group of twenty-eight Greek parliamentarians, from various parties, reacted to Berlin's persistent pressure by tabling a resolution, calling on the parliament to debate Nazi Germany's plunder of Greece, which has never received indemnities. The indemnities not only refer to reparations in general, but also to the compulsory loans to the Reichsbank's clearing account. Shortly before the end of World War II, Nazi bankers were still in possession of Greek assets worth 476 million Reichsmark, which has never been repaid by the Federal Republic of Germany. According to experts, this would today amount to 3.4 billion Euros with interests included. Greece is not the only country that has waived Germany's old Nazi debts without receiving anything in return. As the economist Albrecht Ritschl, who teaches at the London School of Economics, confirmed, Nazi Germany's unpaid debts to its wartime adversaries would today range between 700 billion and 1.4 trillion Euros with interests included, depending on the method of calculation.[1] This does not even include the reparations for war damages.

Debt Cancelation

Because of the Federal Republic of Germany's longstanding policy of refusal, even totally indisputable Nazi debts have never been paid. Bonn scored a decisive success in 1953 with the so-called London Debt Agreement, achieving a gigantic debt cancelation, in the framework of which Greece also waived its former occupier's enormous debts. That agreement permitted the Federal Republic of Germany the expunction of enormous debts, created both before and since World War II. The agreement also stipulated that the question of the payment of Nazi debts and reparations would first be solved with a peace treaty concluded with a "reunited" Germany. [The Federal Republic of] "Germany has been in a very good position ever since, even as other Europeans were forced to endure the burdens of World War II and the consequences of the German occupation," says the economist Ritschl. This has made the resurgence of the "greatest debt transgressor of the 20th Century," namely, Germany, possible.[2]

Payment Refused

After its rise, becoming the European hegemonic power, it can be absolutely excluded that Germany would consider payment of Nazi debts or even negotiation of reparations. The 1990 "Four plus Two Treaty" was not conceived to be a peace treaty, but rather to serve "in place of a peace treaty," thereby allowing Bonn to avoid negotiations on reparations and the payment of Nazi debts. Ritschl explains the reluctance to initiate legal action to force reparations by the fact that many countries had hoped to prosper within the EU. "In 1990, there was a choice: either to initiate legal action for reparations - with an uncertain outcome - or to pursue a successful model of European cooperation." They decided on the latter.[3] So as not to jeopardize its cooperation with the German hegemonic power, the Greek government even decided to prevent the implementation of a 2000 Areopagus' court decision, which would have granted Greek victims of Nazi massacres the right to claim reparations from Germany.[4] It is unknown, whether there is a correlation between Germany's vote in favor of Athens' having access to the Eurozone and Athens' renunciation of insistence on reparations. Since then, the International Court of Justice in The Hague has rejected Nazi victims' lawsuits against the German government as "invalid."[5] Berlin, in any case, is rejecting payment on any sort of reparations, declaring that "65 years after the end of the war and after Germany's decades of peaceful, trusting and fruitful cooperation with the international community, including NATO and EU partner Greece, the question of reparations is no longer justified."[6]

Peaceful, Trusting

The harsh austerity dictate, imposed by Germany on its creditor, is today part of this "peaceful, trusting and fruitful cooperation." It has been imposed against the explicit wishes of most EU states, which warn that these measures would drive Greece over the cliff. The Greek economy has in fact been in a free fall (german-foreign-policy.com reported [7]), yet Germany continues to impose even more austerity measures. These include 15 to 20 percent cuts in wages in the private sector, drastic cuts in the minimum wage and therefore in the public sector wages, which are dependent on the minimum wage. 150,000 government employees will lose their jobs; relative to the size of the population, this would be tantamount to 1.2 million employees in Germany. Berlin's attempt to turn its "partner Greece" - to whom it still owes the money the Nazis had robbed - into an EU financial protectorate (german-foreign-policy.com reported [8]), failed a few days ago because of the resolute resistance of several EU member states. But diplomats in Brussels are already talking of "protectorate-like conditions" for Athens.[9]

Expertocracy

Occasional voices of premonition are also heard in Germany. The President of the German Constitutional Court, Andreas Vosskuhle, recently pointed out that budgetary rights, which practically have long since ceased to exist in Greece, are "central elements of a people's democratic decision making process." "The elected parliamentarians" must therefore "maintain control over fundamental budgetary policy decisions." "European state commissioners and European economic regimes with wide-ranging powers over national budgets" are "not harmless, from the standpoint of democracy." Vosskuhle warned that, "expertocracy," as it is already being practiced in Greece and Italy and is being discussed for use in other countries,[10] is known to be "the counter-model to parliamentarism." "It would be tragic and downright disastrous, if we lose democracy along the road to salvaging the Euro and more integration."[11]

[1] "Wie Reichskanzler Brüning in der Weimarer Republik"; www.faz.net 06.02.2012
[2] "Deutschland ist der größte Schuldensünder des 20. Jahrhunderts"; www.spiegel.de 21.06.2011
[3] "Wie Reichskanzler Brüning in der Weimarer Republik"; www.faz.net 06.02.2012
[4] see also Germany - sacrosanct
[5] see also Kapitulation des Rechts
[6] Deutscher Bundestag Drucksache 17/709, 11.02.2010
[7] see also Europa: Am Rande des Abgrunds, aber deutsch
[8] see also Ein klein wenig Diktatur (II)
[9] "Protektoratsähnliche Zustände": Schon jetzt wachen Deutsche über Athen; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 30.01.2012
[10] see also A Bit of Dictatorship, Dare Less Democracy and Alte Dämonen
[11] Andreas Voßkuhle: Über die Demokratie in Europa; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09.02.2012