On the Relevance of Democracy

ATHENS/BERLIN | | griechenland

ATHENS/BERLIN (Own report) - In the run-up to new elections in Greece, the German elite is discussing various scenarios involving the use of force to ensure control over Athens, including the establishment of a protectorate or the deployment of "protection forces" in that southern European country. The German austerity dictate, pushing Greece into destitution, is provoking growing popular resistance, which, apparently, can no longer be suppressed with democratic means. Berlin has failed in its efforts to force Athens into subordination by threatening to withdraw the Euro, as much as with its demand that Greece combines its parliamentary elections with a referendum on the question of remaining in the Euro zone. Berlin categorically rejects the option of retracting the austerity dictate and replacing it with stimulus programs, as is being demanded by leading economists world wide, even though the exclusion of Greece form the Euro zone threatens to push the currency, itself, into an abyss.

A Last Chance

After all attempts to form a government in Greece failed, last week, it appears that in the elections set for June 17, those forces will win a majority that are strictly opposing the German austerity dictate. Even with their slight majority in parliament, the three parties willing to implement the austerity program have not succeeded in forming a government. Polls are predicting their defeat. The fact that a majority in the Greek population would like to keep the Euro, is seen in Berlin and Brussels as a last chance to achieve a change in public opinion. Already before the announcement of new elections, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble declared that the Euro zone could easily cope with Greece's withdrawal. EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has just confirmed that the EU Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) are already preparing for Greece's withdrawal. And, Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the Euro Group, is quoted saying that "if we would take a poll with secret ballots on Greece remaining in the Euro zone, an overwhelming majority would vote against it." The new elections are Greece's "last chance." If they do not furnish a majority for the austerity dictate, "it will be over."[1]

No Right to Respect

In addition, Berlin has obviously applied pressure on Athens to combine a referendum on remaining in the Euro zone with the elections. This tactic is aimed at weakening the opponents of austerity. According to reports, German Finance Minster Schäuble made this proposal already last Monday to his Greek counterpart at the meeting of the Euro finance ministers.[2] This proposal is obviously supported by the Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Volker Kauder ("Now German will be spoken in Europe" [3]). A Greek government spokesman confirmed that Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Greek President Karolos Papoulias last Friday to implement the German plan for a Greek referendum, whereas in November 2011, Berlin briskly rebuffed the Prime Minister at the time, Giorgos Papandreou, when he publicly announced his proposal to hold a referendum. This led to his demise. Berlin's open interference is met with outrage in Athens. The Greek population has a "right to respect," the chairperson of the conservative Nea Dimokratia, Antonis Samaras, was quoted as saying. And the chairman of the opposition party Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, declared that Berlin is acting as if Greece "is a protectorate."[4]

Euro Dusk

Berlin is gruffly rebuffing every deviation from the severe austerity policy, ruining Greece, (german-foreign-policy.com reported [5]) - in spite of the fact that this will accelerate the collapse of the entire Euro zone. A few days ago, the economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, was not the first to describe such a scenario. Soon, "most likely, next month," Greece will exit the Euro zone, according to Krugman. Immediately thereafter, a comprehensive capital flight can be expected to Germany - at least from Spain and Italy, out of fear of also these two countries' economic collapse. This would necessitate drastic measures - limitations of money transfer or new support measures for Spanish and Italian banks, and possibly both. In the long run, however, support particularly for the Spanish economy with stimulus programs cannot be avoided. This would mean a strategy change for combating the crisis that Berlin from the very beginning has been trying to avoid at all costs. "Germany has the choice," explains Krugman, accept the change of course or "the end of the Euro" is imminent. Concerning the time span of the "Euro dusk," Krugman says, "we are speaking in terms of months, not years."[6]


The sectors of the German elite, which refuse to consider this change of course proposed by Krugman and numerous other experts outside Germany,[7] are now publicly debating scenarios involving the use of force. In a newspaper interview early this month, the director of the prominent Hamburg Institute of International Economics, Thomas Straubhaar, called for establishing a protectorate in Greece - "regardless of the outcome of the elections." The country is a "failed state," he says, which is unable to raise itself "to a new start" under "its own steam."[8] Athens needs "help in establishing viable state structures." It, therefore, must be transformed into "a European protectorate." "The EU must do it," affirms Straubhaar. The EU "would have to help Greece modernize its institutions at every level, particularly with administrative staff, tax experts, and tax inspectors." However, refounding Greece would demand "intuition" to "overcome national pride, conceit, and the resistance of interest groups." This is referring to a sovereign democracy, a German ally in the EU and NATO.


In the meantime, there is even discussion of a putsch in Athens. Greece threatens to sink into complete chaos, warned a long time companion of Germany's former Foreign Minister, Joseph Fischer, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a European parliamentarian for the French Green Party. Cohn-Bendit explained that it is impossible to avoid extensive foreign interference. "If you leave the Greeks to muddle through alone, you are risking a military putsch."[9] German commentators are drawing comparisons to the situation in the later stages of Germany's Weimar Republic. "In the Greek situation, the worst case would be a reversion to a dictatorship," warned an influential commentator. "This scenario becomes more probable as instability grows." In reference to the links between a possible dictatorship and Berlin's austerity dictate, the commentator writes, "already today, it seems as though Merkel's austerity policy can, at best, be imposed on the streets of Athens by force of arms."[10]

Protection Forces

Last week, a leading German daily discussed the issue of dispatching troops to Greece. Should the country go bankrupt, it would then, as a "'failing state,' (...) be less in a position" to shore up its borders against migrants, writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Just recently, the EU Commission announced that it finds itself forced to prolong the mission of its EU border troops at the Greek/Turkish borders. If Athens "should no longer be able to pay its officials, or can pay only in Drachmas," the situation risks "chaotic."[11] The country could possibly "be rocked by rebellions." "Help for Greece would then no longer be on credit, but be transformed into a sort of humanitarian emergency aid," prophesied the journal in its front-page lead editorial. "Hopefully, an international protection force, such as is stationed in the teetering countries further to the north, will not become an option."[12]

Further information and background on Germany's policy toward Greece can be found here: Impoverishment Made in Germany and The Traits of the Crisis.

[1], [2] Euro-Zone droht Griechen mit Rausschmiss; www.spiegel.de 19.05.2012
[3] see also Now German will be Spoken
[4] Griechische Empörung über Merkels angeblichen Referendums-Vorschlag; www.faz.net 19.05.2012
[5] see also The Traits of the Crisis
[6] Eurodämmerung; krugman.blogs.nytimes.com 13.05.2012
[7] see also Die deutsche Transferunion, Berlin's European Recession, Impoverishment Made in Germany and Camouflage and Deception
[8] Thomas Straubhaar: "Wir brauchen ein Protektorat"; www.tagesspiegel.de 06.05.2012
[9] Daniel Cohn-Bendit: "Si on laisse les Grecs se débrouiller seuls, on risque un coup d'Etat militaire"; www.lemonde.fr 10.05.2012
[10] Wolfgang Münchau: Willkommen in Weimar; www.spiegel.de 09.05.2012
[11] IWF friert Beziehungen zu Athen ein - Wahlkampf beginnt; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.05.2012
[12] Griechenlands Schicksalswahl; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.05.2012