Only Misunderstandings

ATHENS/BERLIN | | griechenland

ATHENS/BERLIN (Own report) - Amid mass protests, the German Chancellor visited Athens, Tuesday, to promote new opportunities for German companies. The privatization of state enterprises and infrastructure must be accelerated, was the demand in Berlin even preceding Merkel's visit. The Chancellor remembers all too well how the German Democratic Republic's enterprises were liquidated, and therefore knows how to pluck out a country's industrial filets to sell them off to profit-seeking investors. Interested Germans such as those in the Chancellor's delegation will be in a privileged position, through the creation of "special economic zones" in Greece, which has been Berlin's long time demand. A spokesperson for the German government recently commented on the effects of the German austerity dictate, which has led to the impoverishment of the population, saying "we have succeeded in reducing the unit labor costs by double-digit percentage points." Foreign policy experts in the German capital attribute yesterday's mass protests to "misunderstandings" and recommend that Berlin undertake targeted PR measures, to impede future resistance to German policies of domination. They allege that the Greek population is "badly informed," but has a right to "comprehensible press releases" for more in depth explanations of the German austerity policy.

German Pointers

German Chancellor Merkel met Tuesday for talks with the entire government hierarchy and held negotiations with German and Greek business representatives. Alongside the uncontrollably escalating Euro crisis, these talks were also in the context of the pressure Berlin has been exerting for a comprehensive privatization of state enterprises and infrastructure. This has been a long time demand, but little has been accomplished - due to persistent Greek resistance and to the threat of Greece being shut out of the Euro Zone, making significant business ventures risky for German potential investors. However, now is the time to move forward, according to voices in Berlin, previous to Merkel's visit to Athens. The chair of the CSU Union of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Hans Michelbach, is quoted as having advised that the German Chancellor could "give pointers for significant progress in the privatization of the Greek state economy and structure reforms."[1] After all, Merkel remembers all too well how the GDR's state enterprises were liquidated and knows how to pluck out a country's industrial filets to sell them off to profit-seeking investors.

Special Economic Zone, Greece

Interested Germans such as those in the Chancellor's delegation, will be in a privileged position, through the creation of "special economic zones" in Greece, which has been Berlin's long time demand. ( reported.[2] According to current planning, enterprises in these special economic zones are to receive tax breaks - possibly down to zero percent - subventions are also considered. It has yet to be decided, whether the zones will be determined geographically or by economic branches. The Minister for Development, who is in charge, had conferred with Chancellor Merkel yesterday. German business is making even more extensive demands. As Hans Peter Keitel, President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) recently demanded, the special economic zones should not just be limited to particular sectors of the Greek economy, but should include the entire country in "a sort of special economic zone within the Euro zone." The administration of "the special economic zone, Greece" would be the function "of foreign EU personnel."[3]

Down to the Salary Level of the '70s

The benefits for foreign - particularly German - investors would be supplementary to the advantages already in place, to permit their maximization of profits. Just last Monday, a spokesperson for the German government, boasted, "we have succeeded in reducing the unit labor costs by double-digit percentage points." The situation looks vastly different from the perspective of the Greek population. "The sinking of the unit labor costs" has also been accomplished by a growing unemployment rate, officially at 25 percent - 50 percent for youth and 60 percent for women. The salaries of low-wage employees have dropped to the level of the second half of the 1970s - with prices remaining constant, leading, for example, to many being unable to afford certain medicine. Hundreds of thousands have become dependent upon the church's soup kitchens, to avoid starvation. This is also a consequence of the German austerity-dictated decline in the unit labor costs.

German Provocations

The protests against the German Chancellor were not solely the result of anger over Berlin's austerity dictate, but had also been provoked by a series of other German provocations. Already when the crisis began escalating, in early 2010, the German media insulted the Greek population with chauvinist phraseology, coined by an ethnicist publicist, who had served as "state's witness" against Greece during the Nazi period.[4] Similar chauvinist insults in the German mass media ("penniless Greeks") followed German demands that the country be transformed into an EU protectorate. Most recently, the press has alleged that "on the streets of Athens, Merkel's austerity policy" may possibly only be "imposed by force of arms." In a commentary of a renowned German daily, the veiled warning was issued, "hopefully an international protection force, such as is stationed in the teetering countries further to the north, will not become an option."[5] ( reported.[6]) These provocations not only help to explain why, according to the most recent opinion polls, four-fifths of the Greek population have a negative opinion of Germany, but also the intensity of yesterday's protests, for which a state of emergency had to be imposed for the Greek capital to be contained - an exceptional situation for a German politician's visit abroad.

The Truth from the German Source

Foreign policy experts are warning that the rapid intensification of Greek protests against the German policy should, under no circumstances, be taken lightly. The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) has recently published an analysis of this development. The author explains that Greek anger over the austerity dictate and the provocations from Germany are a "misunderstanding" that the German government needs to correct with an "effective communication strategy." In the future, "regular press conferences" and "comprehensible press releases in German and Greek" should help "explain Berlin's measures in the context of the Greek crisis." This will provide "Greek public opinion, which is currently very badly informed, with an opportunity to learn the truth - directly from the source." German self-advertisement to the Greek population should "not necessarily be considered an interference in Greek policy," but rather "as a sign of mutual respect" - to "eliminate current misunderstandings."[7]

[1] Merkel will in Athen loben und mahnen; 08.10.2012
[2] see also Die Chance in Griechenland nutzen
[3] BDI-Chef will Griechenland zur Sonderwirtschaftszone machen; 10.09.2012
[4] see also Bilanz der Nationalismus-Party
[5] Griechenlands Schicksalswahl; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.05.2012
[6] see also On the Relevance of Democracy
[7] George N. Tzogopoulos: Das griechisch-deutsche Missverständnis. Auswirkungen der Krise auf das Deutschland-Bild in Griechenland, DGAPanalyse kompakt No. 8, September 2012