The Lonely Chancellor: Merkel Under Fire as Refugee Crisis Worsens

(FILE) +++ NEWS- UND ENTERTAINMENTFOTOS DER WOCHE +++ BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 15: German Chancellor Angel Merkel walks into the plenary hall at the Bundestag during debates that centered on Germany's refugee policy on October 15, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Merkel gave a government declaration in which she reiterated her refugee policy stance prior to an upcoming European Union summit in Brussels. The Bundestag also voted later in the day on a new packet of measures to deal with the challenge of accommodating so many migrants and refugees this year. Merkel has coming under increasing pressure, including from members of her own political party, the German Christian Democrats (CDU), from critics who argue Germany is unable to cope with so many newcomers. Germany is expected to receive up to a million or more migrants this year. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

BERLIN, GERMANY – OCTOBER 15: German Chancellor Angel Merkel walks into the plenary hall at the Bundestag during debates that centered on Germany’s refugee policy on October 15, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. Merkel gave a government declaration in which she reiterated her refugee policy stance prior to an upcoming European Union summit in Brussels. The Bundestag also voted later in the day on a new packet of measures to deal with the challenge of accommodating so many migrants and refugees this year. Merkel has coming under increasing pressure, including from members of her own political party, the German Christian Democrats (CDU), from critics who argue Germany is unable to cope with so many newcomers. Germany is expected to receive up to a million or more migrants this year. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Until recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was considered to be the most powerful politician in Europe. But now, her approach to the refugee crisis has her under fire at home and in Brussels. Can she survive? 

For almost three quarters of an hour, it was as though there was no refugee crisis in Germany. Last Monday, Angela Merkel was in Nuremberg for a town hall discussion with a specially chosen group of conservative voters. A moderator in a light-colored, summer suit directed the proceedings as Merkel chatted about everything “that is important to us.”

Initially, the focus was on those things that used to be important to Germans — up until roughly eight weeks ago. Things like vocational education, the country’s school system and the difficulty German companies have in competing with companies like Google and Apple.

It was like a trip back in time — back to Germany’s recent past, when the country was happier and untroubled. But then Christine Bruchmann, a local business leader, abruptly steered the discussion back to the issue that has dominated Germany in recent weeks. Bruchmann wanted to know if Merkel was concerned that the huge numbers of refugees currently arriving in the country could disrupt societal balance.

The German chancellor took a deep breath before launching into a sober analysis of the job she has done in the past two months. Unfortunately, her conclusion was not particularly rosy.

She knows, Merkel said, that there still isn’t European agreement on how to share the refugee burden; that there is still no deal with Turkey on slowing the inflow of migrants into Europe; and that along the Balkan Route, used by hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis in recent weeks in their quest to seek asylum in Germany and other northern European countries, there is a lack of “order” and “control.” In particular, Merkel said, she is concerned about that “which makes Germany so strong,” namely “the societal center.” She is constantly asking herself, Merkel related, “if we are losing the center.”

One of Merkel’s great strengths is an unerring sense for political reality. As such, her comments at the town meeting early last week show that nobody knows better than Germany’s chancellor just how precarious the situation in the country has become. The influx of refugees continues unabated and Merkel’s public approval ratings continue to fall in lockstep with sinking support for her center-right Christian Democrats (CDU). Meanwhile, her quarrel with Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, has reached a new and dangerous level. Seehofer has issued so many ultimatums to the chancellor that he will eventually be forced to make good on one of his threats — which could throw Merkel’s suddenly wobbly governing coalition completely off kilter.

‘The End of the Merkel Era’

The government, in short, has lost control. And Germany is in a state of emergency.

Merkel can still rely on a large number of supporters within her own party. But each day that thousands of refugees cross into Germany, the certainty that such support is sustainable erodes a bit further. Not long ago, Merkel was considered the strongest political leader in Europe, one whose term in office could only come to an end were she to decide herself against running for reelection in 2017. Now, both foreign and domestic media outlets are wondering aloud whether she will run into serious trouble before Christmas, or shortly thereafter. “The end of the Merkel era is within sight,” the Financial Times wrote a week ago.

Merkel’s historic decision to open Germany’s borders to refugees stuck in Hungary was morally unassailable. But politically, it has put her on the defensive. Now, in order to tighten up Europe’s external borders, she is dependent on the help of erstwhile opponents such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

In the EU, meanwhile, her maxim that Europe should not get back into the business of building border fences is being openly questioned. Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, for example, announced last week that her country was being forced to build additional security facilities because the “inflow” from Slovenia was larger than the “outflow” into Germany.

There is no shortage of schadenfreude these days when European politicians speak about the German chancellor. The true ruler of Europe, who forced her austerity policies upon the entire Continent, must now come begging for help in dealing with the refugee crisis, people in Brussels are saying.

Indeed, it is slowly becoming apparent that Merkel’s influence in the EU is waning just as her support evaporates back home in Germany. To be sure, the chancellor’s stock has risen in recent weeks among Green Party supporters and left-wing Social Democrats. But her own core of center-right voters is fearful that the “refugees welcome” movement could give rise to a parallel society of Muslims in the country.

A Shot in the Arm for the Populists

The situation is not dissimilar to the fate of her predecessor Gerhard Schröder. In the early 2000s, the Social Democratic chancellor pushed through welfare cuts and reduced unemployment benefits that severely alienated many in his party. The result was a reanimated Left Party, the far-left political movement that partially grew out of the former East German communist party.

This time, leading German politicians have warned, Merkel’s asylum policies could provide a shot in the arm to the country’s right-wing populists. One member of her government warns that her stance on migrants is an “aid program for the AfD,” a reference to the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany. The party, which received 4.7 percent of the vote in Germany’s last general election, is currently polling at 8 percent, according to a survey released on Saturday.

CDU members say that Merkel’s only option for freeing herself from the trap in which she currently finds herself is that of rapidly reducing the number of immigrants arriving in Germany. But it doesn’t currently look as though that is a realistic possibility. Some 500,000 refugees have entered the country since the beginning of September, and there is no end in sight. “Prepare for the eventuality that in the coming weeks, 10,000 to 12,000 refugees will arrive at the border each day,” a member of the Coordinating Committee inside of Germany’s Interior Ministry said last Wednesday, quoting from a communiqué from the Austrian Interior Ministry.

The situation at Germany’s borders has indeed become dramatic. Last week, for example, Austrian authorities brought over 7,000 refugees to the German border and simply unloaded them there at 3:30 a.m. One day later, Emily Haber, state secretary in Germany’s Interior Ministry, said: “We have to prevent a repeat of such chaotic scenes at the German border.” She then added: “That was a clear violation of the agreements.”

One exhausted aid worker spoke of a “humanitarian catastrophe.” And SPD parliamentarian Christian Flisek from the German border city of Passau said: “We are transforming our border areas into the country’s refugee camp. It can’t continue indefinitely.”

The mood isn’t just becoming critical at the border. In late October, 215 mayors in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia wrote a letter to Chancellor Merkel and to the state’s governor, Hannelore Kraft, saying that their ability to cope with the situation had been exhausted. Almost all available shelters were full to overflowing, they wrote, and even providing people shelter in tents or containers was hardly possible anymore. Furthermore, the municipalities are so busy with managing the inflow of refugees “that we are unable, or only partially able, to fulfill our other municipal responsibilities,” they wrote in the letter. At almost exactly the same time, five municipal politicians from another region in the state sent an additional letter of protest to Governor Kraft’s office.

‘Great Difficulty’

There is indeed much that is no longer working. The federal government has still not made the 40,000 emergency beds available that it promised back in September during an emergency summit at the Chancellery. Furthermore, underage migrants are often put on trains unaccompanied and sent across the country. And it still often takes more than six months before refugees can even file their applications for asylum.

Jörg Warncke, mayor of the municipality of Lachendorf in Lower Saxony, groans. His city hall has exactly 32 employees and, until recently, only one of them was responsible for welfare cases, low-income medical care cases and asylum-seekers. Now, Warncke has diverted sufficient funds from the budget to hire a second case worker and has also charged the municipality’s IT expert, in addition to two employees who had been responsible for kindergartens, with finding possible refugee shelters.”We are managing the situation only with great difficulty,” Warncke says. He says he has been unable to find someone in the area who speaks Arabic and that they only have one translator for Turkish and one for Kurdish. “At the beginning, we could hardly communicate with the people. Luckily, some of the first refugees who came to us have managed to learn a bit of German and can help out as interpreters.”

The chancellor is fully aware of the difficulties encountered on the local level and she knows about the lack of sufficient shelters, of interpreters and of judges who can make decisions on individual asylum cases. But she doesn’t have a solution for quickly easing the mounting pressures. And one reason for that is that Merkel, long renowned for keeping her cards close to her chest, has been unprecedentedly explicit about where she stands on the refugee crisis. Essentially, she views the crisis through the prism of two questions: Can Germany reduce the number of arriving refugees by way of national legislation? And: Should the government say that there is a limit to Germany’s capacity? She has clearly and explicitly answered both questions in the negative.

Merkel believes it is impossible for Germany to seal off its borders. For her, the erection of a fence would not just be ineffectual, but would also represent the end of the European ideal. Having grown up in communist East Germany, she is from a country that cut itself off with walls and barbed wire — and she doesn’t want to relive the experience. She views all other proposals that have been made as mere political posturing.

Unshakable Optimist

That also explains why she has stubbornly avoided establishing a maximum number of refugees that Germany can accept, as her nominal political ally Horst Seehofer has repeatedly demanded. How high, after all, should such a maximum be? And how can it be enforced? Merkel doesn’t believe that there is a satisfactory answer to such questions. It may be that Germans want her to establish a limit to the burden Germany can accept. But it would be politically dangerous for Merkel to identify a maximum that couldn’t be adhered to. That is her view of the situation.

It would be inaccurate to say that Merkel is alone in her view of the situation. Chancellery Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier has long been among her closest confidants and he unconditionally supports her position on the refugee crisis. Indeed, she recently named Altmaier as her refugee coordinator.

Chancellery Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier remains a staunch supporter of Merkel’s refugee policies.

To be sure, the list of potential candidates for the job wasn’t long. Christian Democrat éminence grise Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, has clearly articulated his skepticism in recent weeks and Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière is closer to Seehofer on the refugee issue than he is to Merkel. But Altmaier was a natural choice for other reasons as well. For one, he shares Merkel’s faith that, even as the pressure is intense, the chancellor will be able to resist it for much longer than critics believe — perhaps even long enough to create an EU distribution system and reach an agreement with Turkey, even if neither of them believe that such moves would rapidly reduce the numbers of refugees.

For another, though, Altmaier is an unshakable optimist and studiously avoids the kind of alarmism many in his party propagate — largely because he has long had a different approach to the issue of immigration than most others in his party. At the end of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s term in office, Altmaier — who was a young CDU parliamentarian at the time — joined with a handful of other young conservatives in an effort to change the party’s approach to immigration. At the time, it was a viewpoint that placed him and Merkel at the fringes of the party. Things have changed since then, but the party is still largely mistrustful of immigration and fearful that German culture could be overwhelmed. Altmaier has no understanding for such worries.

As a result, he defines Germany’s refugee capacity differently than do most CDU members. Germany, he is convinced, is a rich country and can find a solution to the logistical problem it is facing and can integrate even more refugees. Of course, the numbers of new arrivals will change the country, but that doesn’t scare Altmaier in the slightest.

It is possible, of course, that Altmaier overestimates Germans, but he is right when he points out that his fellow countrymen are not unmoved by the fate of the refugees. “The incidents this spring clearly showed that Europe cannot tolerate seeing people in need drowning,” he said.

Unmovable

Still, Altmaier knows, as does Merkel, that they can’t simply ignore the building pressure and the growing skepticism of her political path — which is why they are open to finding a compromise with the CSU, such as entering into negotiations with the SPD over so-called transit-zones. The idea is that of establishing zones on the margins of Europe where refugees can be sheltered and asylum requests can be processed before approved asylum applicants are distributed throughout Europe. Neither Merkel nor Altmaier believe such negotiations will amount to much, but they are eager to show that they are willing to seek middle ground.

Things are moving elsewhere as well. The Chancellery, for example, agrees with the Interior Minister’s proposal of sending back rejected asylum-seekers from Afghanistan. A Chancellery source said that the extension of Germany’s military engagement in Afghanistan could be used to establish safe zones, allowing for the return of asylum seekers.

Another issue of dispute among German conservatives is that of allowing refugees to send for their families once they have received asylum status. And that problem could ultimately be resolved by the mere passage of time. At the moment, for example, there are so many asylum applications outstanding that the number of applications for family reunification remains low.

Still, despite the concessions Merkel has thus far made, she remains unmovable when it comes to her central convictions. She refuses to define a maximum number of refugees that Germany can accept and she refuses to consider the construction of a border fence.

As such, Seehofer isn’t likely to back down. His quibbles, after all, aren’t with certain elements of Merkel’s refugee policy. He disagrees with her approach in its entirety and insists that Berlin place a cap on the number of people the country can take in.

He also faces tremendous pressure in his home-state of Bavaria. Located on the border with Austria, the state has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis and for weeks, mayors, municipal politicians and volunteers have been complaining that they have reached their limit. The atmosphere within the CSU’s state parliamentary fraction has become pre-revolutionary. Seehofer cannot afford the kind of equanimity that characterizes Altmaier.

Under Attack from an Ally

Instead, he has spent the past several weeks launching attack after attack against Merkel. He has said, for example, that Merkel’s decision to take in the refugees trapped in Hungary is a choice “that will occupy us for quite some time to come.” And he invited Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who built a fence on his country’s southern border to keep the refugees out, to a party event in Bavaria.

Seehofer, though, is himself skeptical of proposals to build a border fence and he isn’t interested in changing German asylum policies. “Everybody knows that there isn’t a lever to stop the flow of refugees,” says one member of the CSU leadership. “But you have to give the people the feeling that you are interested in achieving that goal.”

Merkel is concerned about losing support should she be unable to live up to promises she has made. Seehofer is convinced that voters will turn their backs on the conservatives if they get the feeling that their worries aren’t being taken seriously. But Seehofer also didn’t believe that Merkel would remain so stubborn in her refusal to set an upper limit, which partially explains why he allowed the quarrel to escalate. At the beginning of October, he threatened “emergency defense” measures should Merkel not change course.

A few days ago, a new implicit threat emerged when Seehofer declined to deny reports that the CSU could pull its ministers out of Merkel’s government. The CSU currently holds three seats on Merkel’s cabinet. And he has also opened yet another new front recently in the battle against Merkel. If Berlin continues to refuse establishing an upper limit, Seehofer said, his party may file a complaint with Germany’s Constitutional Court.

The fierce battle between Merkel’s CDU and Seehofer’s CSU is harmful to both sides. While the CDU’s public approval ratings have fallen, so too have those of the CSU. The party now stands at 43 percent, roughly 5 percentage points fewer than when Bavarian voters last went to the polls two years ago. And for the CSU, winning the absolute majority in state elections is really the only thing that counts.

Unleashing a Genie

That’s also one of the reasons Seehofer is putting up such a desperate fight, though at this point, he would likely be satisfied with even just a small gesture. “The words upper limit don’t necessarily have to be uttered,” says a person close to the party boss. “Merkel could also say that she will do all she can to ensure that the influx doesn’t continue the way it has.”

But it’s unlikely Merkel will even agree to that — raising the possibility that Seehofer has unleashed a genie that he will no longer be able to shove back into the bottle. The longer Merkel ignores the CSU’s increasingly insistent demands, the greater the possibility that the Bavarian party will lose credibility. To avoid that eventuality, Seehofer will ultimately have to follow up his bluster with action.

Graphic: Heading for Conflict Zoom

DER SPIEGEL

Graphic: Heading for Conflict

Within the CSU’s party group in the national parliament in Berlin, the mood is getting increasingly rebellious. “If we have nothing but vague plans for transit zones, then the disaster will take its course,” warns the group’s justice affairs coordinator, Hans-Peter Uhl. He says that Germany is so overstrained from the influx of refugees that it is self-evident the government must be prepared to turn people away directly at the border “always based on the principle of proportionality.” He says he plans to move forward with other domestic policy specialists to submit a petition to Merkel’s government calling for it to take more decisive action.

But what happens if Merkel doesn’t yield? Bavaria, after all, cannot simply close its borders.

“The chancellor cannot just single handedly dictate the path. Instead we need to work together and agree on how the course is set politically,” said Hans-Peter-Friedrich, deputy head of the joint parliamentary group of the CSU and Merkel’s CDU. “Anything else would be in violation of the agreement governing our group,” he says, adding that nobody wants to revoke these working agreements. But the former German interior minister also quietly conveyed the threat of doing just that. “In terms of Seehofer, I consider anything to be conceivable at the moment,” says one member of the CDU’s national party executive.

Leftist Policies?

Trouble is also brewing within Merkel’s own party. On Wednesday night, a county chapter of Merkel’s party held a town hall meeting focused on the issue of refugees at an inn in the town of Bopfingen in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, a heartland of CDU voters. Some 50 residents met in a back room with three CDU politicians. The mood was far from positive.

Thomas Trautwein, the head of the city chapter of the party, accused the chancellor of having sent a welcoming message around the entire world. “It’s no longer possible to bring things under control again,” he said. Winfried Mack, a member of the state parliament representing the town said, “The right to asylum is not there for us to take in entire peoples.” Finally, Gunter Bühler, the mayor, said, “It’s my opinion that we are not going to be able to tackle this as easily as the chancellor says.”

Then it was the audience’s turn to speak. “Our chancellor has been pursuing policies that I would have expected from the left,” said the first, noting that Merkel eliminated Germany’s mandatory military conscription, she ordered the closure of the country’s nuclear power plants and she made concessions to Greece in the debt crisis. And now? “Now she’s even threatening to divide Europe.”

“We will not, at the bottom, be able to solve the problems created at the top,” complained another. Then a third asked, “Does the chancellor even remember what’s in the oath she took?” Yes, parliamentarian Mack said, defending his party boss before then slightly distancing himself from her. “I personally wouldn’t have done that with the selfies (which Merkel took together with refugees), there was a certain amount of clumsiness in it.” At this point you could hear people muttering the word “stupidity.”

At a protest on Oct. 10 held by the Alternative for Germany, a right-wing populist party, in Freilassing, the a border city where many of the thousands of refugees are arriving, a demonstrator held up a sign reading: "That is not my chancellor." Zoom

DPA

At a protest on Oct. 10 held by the Alternative for Germany, a right-wing populist party, in Freilassing, the a border city where many of the thousands of refugees are arriving, a demonstrator held up a sign reading: “That is not my chancellor.”

At a recent meeting of the CDU’s national executive committee, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble reported that the mood in the party base had deteriorated to a “dramatic” degree, especially in southern Germany and in the eastern state of Saxony, where the state chapters of the CDU tend to be more conservative.

In the Saxony chapter, general secretary Michael Kretschmer resorts to carefully selected euphemisms to describe the situation, saying, “The voice of the people is of course very present.” That’s one way of describing it. At a protest in the town of Schkeuditz near Leipzig, a CDU member could recently be seen holding up a placard reading, “Dethrone Merkel.”

Overstretched

Christian Hartmann, the head of the party in the populous city of Dresden, said that his local chapter is divided. Some members have joined up with the right-wing populist Pegida movement, whereas others are attending the counter-protests. But, he adds, “The skepticism as to whether the political policies pursued thus far can be successful is gaining the upper hand. The general feeling is that we are structurally and organizationally overstretched.”

Take the state of Hesse, for example, where the state chapter of the CDU is also comparably conservative. “Of course many of our supporters and members are unsettled,” says Elmar Bociek, who is running to become mayor next Sunday in the town of Sulzbach. During his campaign, he says, he has gone from door to door and the first issue on the tongues of people in most of the homes he visits is that of the refugees.

Bociek is one of 34 CDU politicians at the municipal level who joined together four weeks ago to send an open letter to the chancellor in which they described “major concern for the future of our country.” By disassociating himself from the chancellor’s policies, Bociek has helped his campaign.

“The people are already noticing that we have a different party base here than the national party,” the local politician says. He believes the protests are starting to have an effect. With negotiations with Turkey, new asylum decisions and an initiative to secure better cooperation in Europe, it appears Merkel is starting to take action.

Protesters with the Alternative for Germany Party at a demonstration in Berlin on Saturday hold up signs with slogans like, "Clear rules are needed for immigration," "Limit immigration" or "Mrs. Merkel, this isn't your country! Resign!" Zoom

DPA

Protesters with the Alternative for Germany Party at a demonstration in Berlin on Saturday hold up signs with slogans like, “Clear rules are needed for immigration,” “Limit immigration” or “Mrs. Merkel, this isn’t your country! Resign!”

Next spring, elections are to be held in three German states: Saxony-Anhalt, Rhineland Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg. The election in the latter will be the most important because the CDU wants to correct a historic anomaly. The CDU had ruled in the state for 58 years until they were unseated by the Green Party in 2011, an affront the party still hasn’t recovered from.But how will the party run against Winfried Kretschmann, the state’s Green Party governor, when he is constantly praising the chancellor for her handling of the refugee issue? Party leaders in the state, under the leadership of Thomas Strobl, who is also a member of the national committee, are waffling. “The CDU Baden-Württemberg supports our chancellor,” Strobl claims, even if people “are of a different opinion when it comes to one issue or the other.”

Such protestations of loyalty, however, are often indicators of deeper discontent. And there are open voices against the chancellor’s policies in the state as well. Nikolas Löbel, a young CDU leader in the state, is calling for a “temporary stop to the acceptance of additional refugees and asylum-seekers.” Otherwise Germany threatens to be “infiltrated.”

District CDU chair Thomas Bareiss, who is also a member of the federal parliament, demonstrated his rejection of Merkel’s policies in his choice of a keynote speaker. He invited Zoltán Balong, Hungary’s education minister, to speak at a recent local party event. “With our fence, we are also protecting Germany’s border,” said the close confidante to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Merkel herself is expected to make nine appearances during the election campaign in Baden-Württemberg. When she does, she will find a party that is torn — because although the number of her fans in the state has shrunk, they have not disappeared. In mid-October, 26 mayors and 10 members of the state parliament, signed a letter stating that they support her “clear position” and her “endurance.”

But in eastern German states, the image is clear. “The mood in the CDU in Saxony is similar to that of the CSU,” says Matthias Rössler, the CDU president of the state parliament. On Nov. 14, the state chapter will be holding its own party conference. As their guest speaker, they have invited Horst Seehofer, the man who himself recently invited Orbán.

Perils for Merkel

It’s a strange development for Merkel. It has been a long time since she has faced such dissent. But there’s another reason that the development could become perilous for Merkel. Recently, greater scrutiny has been placed on Merkel’s policies of the past months — and it has revealed that she has made some far reaching mistakes.

For one, Merkel’s Chancellery responded far too late to the historic dimensions of the crisis. Already as far back as February, local communities had already begun ringing the alarm for help. In May, transit country Serbia began preparing for larger refugee movements. But officials in Berlin did nothing.

The Interior Ministry refused to allow the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees to hire additional staff for processing asylum applications and thousands of old cases were left unprocessed. Later, when it became clear that the task at hand was too much for the head of the agency, he still remained in office for weeks.

In June, CDU members of the state legislature in Baden-Württemberg warned in Berlin that the situation could get out of hand, but federal government officials didn’t even begin to think about switching into crisis mode.

And then came Hungary. Merkel’s decision to open the border was correct. There was a humanitarian emergency and there was no time for lengthy consideration. But even correct decisions can have undesired consequences. Merkel failed to strongly state that taking in refugees in this way was an exception. It created the impression that Germany was prepared to accept every refugee who came to Europe. She didn’t mean it that way, but that was the message that many wanted to hear.

Playing into Orbán’s Hands

Merkel’s move played right into the hands of Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán. He had wanted to suspend the Dublin Agreement, which requires asylum applications to be processed in the European country where refugees first arrive. Under Dublin, his country would have been forced to take in many of the refugees. The chancellor did him a favor in opening the borders and suspending the original rules.

“A European problem was turned into a German one,” Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper wrote in an editorial. And the point at which Merkel called for European solidarity came too late. Germany’s partners understood action taken by the government in Berlin to be an invitation to simply pass the refugees on to Germany. Orbán accused Merkel of brazenness and even moral imperialism.

All at once, the balance of power in the EU was turned on its head. As it turns out, the woman who until very recently had been hailed the “Queen of Europe” has insufficient leverage to force her European neighbors to help.

Instead, Merkel has navigated herself into a corner. The fact that she has been abandoned by both her European neighbors and many within her own party has strongly reduced the chancellor’s room for maneuver. Nor is any help from her coalition partner, the center- left Social Democrats (SPD), to be expected.

Instead, the SPD are observing with barely concealed satisfaction how their seemingly invincible opponent is weakening herself. They seem to be taking a sit back and relax attitude, even though the party itself doesn’t stand to profit from the chancellor’s weakness due to its perpetually weak standing in public opinion polls, where it appears to have become stuck on 25 percent, a pitiful figure for a once large party.

After initially expressing sympathy for Seehofer’s demand to establish “transit zones,” the party is now indicating an unwillingness to compromise. “We will not agree to the detention centers,” said Thomas Oppermann, the head of the party’s group in parliament. Instead he is calling for the further suspension of the Schengen Agreement. “Independent of that, however, we need to quickly apply assertive border controls and ensure that there are orderly conditions when it comes to entry into Germany.”Merkel is wavering, but is there a chance she will actually fall? The threat has never been as great during her 10 years in office. At the same time, Merkel is also an experienced crisis manager who knows that her political survival is dependent on lowering the number of refugees.

The CDU and the CSU tend to hold on to their leaders as long as they can continue to win elections. In March, voters will go to the polling stations in three German states. In that sense, Merkel has precisely four months’ time to get the situation under control.
By Melanie Amann, Matthias Bartsch, Jan Friedmann, Konstantin von Hammerstein, Björn Hengst, Horand Knaup, Ralf Neukirch, Michael Sauga and Steffen Winter

German Company is Top Tax Evader in Greece

Region:

 

El-Venizelos1-400x285A German company was found to be the biggest tax evader in Greece. A court in Athens found that Hochtief, the German company that was running the “Eleftherios Venizelos” Athens International airport was not paying VAT for 20 years. It is estimated that Hochtief, will have to pay more than 500 million Euros for VAT arrears. Together with other outstanding payments, like those to social security funds, it might have to py more than 1 billion Euros.

It must be noted that under the “Troika” austerity programme Greek employees lost around 400 million Euros from cuts to their salaries.

Hochtief, which is the biggest German Construction company, specializing in airports, was also running the Athens International airport through a subsidiary until 2013, when it sold it’s share to a Canadian company.
(source: neurope)

 

 

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Unruly Hearts will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.

Varoufakis: pourquoi l’Allemagne refuse d’alléger la dette de la Grèce

 

12 juillet 2015

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Behind Germany’s refusal to grant Greece debt relief – Op-Ed in The Guardian

Tomorrow’s EU Summit will seal Greece’s fate in the Eurozone. As these lines are being written, Euclid Tsakalotos, my great friend, comrade and successor as Greece’s Finance Ministry is heading for a Eurogroup meeting that will determine whether a last ditch agreement between Greece and our creditors is reached and whether this agreement contains the degree of debt relief that could render the Greek economy viable within the Euro Area. Euclid is taking with him a moderate, well-thought out debt restructuring plan that is undoubtedly in the interests both of Greece and its creditors. (Details of it I intend to publish here on Monday, once the dust has settled.) If these modest debt restructuring proposals are turned down, as the German finance minister has foreshadowed, Sunday’s EU Summit will be deciding between kicking Greece out of the Eurozone now or keeping it in for a little while longer, in a state of deepening destitution, until it leaves some time in the future. The question is: Why is the German finance Minister, Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, resisting a sensible, mild, mutually beneficial debt restructure? The following op-ed just published in today’s The Guardian offers my answer. [Please note that the Guardian’s title was not of my choosing. Mine read, as above: Behind Germany’s refusal to grant Greece debt relief ). Click here for the op-ed or…

Greece’s financial drama has dominated the headlines for five years for one reason: the stubborn refusal of our creditors to offer essential debt relief. Why, against common sense, against the IMF’s verdict and against the everyday practices of bankers facing stressed debtors, do they resist a debt restructure? The answer cannot be found in economics because it resides deep in Europe’s labyrinthine politics.

In 2010, the Greek state became insolvent. Two options consistent with continuing membership of the eurozone presented themselves: the sensible one, that any decent banker would recommend – restructuring the debt and reforming the economy; and the toxic option – extending new loans to a bankrupt entity while pretending that it remains solvent.

Official Europe chose the second option, putting the bailing out of French and German banks exposed to Greek public debt above Greece’s socioeconomic viability. A debt restructure would have implied losses for the bankers on their Greek debt holdings.Keen to avoid confessing to parliaments that taxpayers would have to pay again for the banks by means of unsustainable new loans, EU officials presented the Greek state’s insolvency as a problem of illiquidity, and justified the “bailout” as a case of “solidarity” with the Greeks.

To frame the cynical transfer of irretrievable private losses on to the shoulders of taxpayers as an exercise in “tough love”, record austerity was imposed on Greece, whose national income, in turn – from which new and old debts had to be repaid – diminished by more than a quarter. It takes the mathematical expertise of a smart eight-year-old to know that this process could not end well.

Once the sordid operation was complete, Europe had automatically acquired another reason for refusing to discuss debt restructuring: it would now hit the pockets of European citizens! And so increasing doses of austerity were administered while the debt grew larger, forcing creditors to extend more loans in exchange for even more austerity.

Our government was elected on a mandate to end this doom loop; to demand debt restructuring and an end to crippling austerity. Negotiations have reached their much publicised impasse for a simple reason: our creditors continue to rule out any tangible debt restructuring while insisting that our unpayable debt be repaid “parametrically” by the weakest of Greeks, their children and their grandchildren.

In my first week as minister for finance I was visited by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, president of the Eurogroup (the eurozone finance ministers), who put a stark choice to me: accept the bailout’s “logic” and drop any demands for debt restructuring or your loan agreement will “crash” – the unsaid repercussion being that Greece’s banks would be boarded up.

Five months of negotiations ensued under conditions of monetary asphyxiation and an induced bank-run supervised and administered by the European Central Bank. The writing was on the wall: unless we capitulated, we would soon be facing capital controls, quasi-functioning cash machines, a prolonged bank holiday and, ultimately, Grexit.

The threat of Grexit has had a brief rollercoaster of a history. In 2010 it put the fear of God in financiers’ hearts and minds as their banks were replete with Greek debt. Even in 2012, when Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, decided that Grexit’s costs were a worthwhile “investment” as a way of disciplining France et al, the prospect continued to scare the living daylights out of almost everyone else

By the time Syriza won power last January, and as if to confirm our claim that the “bailouts” had nothing to do with rescuing Greece (and everything to do with ringfencing northern Europe), a large majority within the Eurogroup – under the tutelage of Schäuble – had adopted Grexit either as their preferred outcome or weapon of choice against our government.

Greeks, rightly, shiver at the thought of amputation from monetary union. Exiting a common currency is nothing like severing a peg, as Britain did in 1992, when Norman Lamont famously sang in the shower the morning sterling quit the European exchange rate mechanism (ERM). Alas, Greece does not have a currency whose peg with the euro can be cut. It has the euro – a foreign currency fully administered by a creditor inimical to restructuring our nation’s unsustainable debt.

To exit, we would have to create a new currency from scratch. In occupied Iraq, the introduction of new paper money took almost a year, 20 or so Boeing 747s, the mobilisation of the US military’s might, three printing firms and hundreds of trucks. In the absence of such support, Grexit would be the equivalent of announcing a large devaluation more than 18 months in advance: a recipe for liquidating all Greek capital stock and transferring it abroad by any means available.

With Grexit reinforcing the ECB-induced bank run, our attempts to put debt restructuring back on the negotiating table fell on deaf ears. Time and again we were told that this was a matter for an unspecified future that would follow the “programme’s successful completion” – a stupendous Catch-22 since the “programme” could never succeed without a debt restructure.

This weekend brings the climax of the talks as Euclid Tsakalotos, my successor, strives, again, to put the horse before the cart – to convince a hostile Eurogroup that debt restructuring is a prerequisite of success for reforming Greece, not an ex-post reward for it. Why is this so hard to get across? I see three reasons.

One is that institutional inertia is hard to beat. A second, that unsustainable debt gives creditors immense power over debtors – and power, as we know, corrupts even the finest. But it is the third which seems to me more pertinent and, indeed, more interesting.

The euro is a hybrid of a fixed exchange-rate regime, like the 1980s ERM, or the 1930s gold standard, and a state currency. The former relies on the fear of expulsion to hold together, while state money involves mechanisms for recycling surpluses between member states (for instance, a federal budget, common bonds). The eurozone falls between these stools – it is more than an exchange-rate regime and less than a state.

And there’s the rub. After the crisis of 2008/9, Europe didn’t know how to respond. Should it prepare the ground for at least one expulsion (that is, Grexit) to strengthen discipline? Or move to a federation? So far it has done neither, its existentialist angst forever rising. Schäuble is convinced that as things stand, he needs a Grexit to clear the air, one way or another. Suddenly, a permanently unsustainable Greek public debt, without which the risk of Grexit would fade, has acquired a new usefulness for Schauble.

What do I mean by that? Based on months of negotiation, my conviction is that the German finance minister wants Greece to be pushed out of the single currency to put the fear of God into the French and have them accept his model of a disciplinarian eurozone.

Greece Might Have To Sell Ancient Ruins, Islands Under Bailout Deal

 

Region:

 

dette-Grèce
dette-Grèce

It’s a horrifying prospect:  Greece may have to sell it’s ancient ruins and sights in Athens and elsewhere, as well as nature preserves, and islands as part of it’s deal under the new bailout agreement.  People are very rattled at the part of the seven-page agreement where the Greek government has agreed to sell off 50 Billion Euro’s worth of “valuable Greek assets”.

According to Time.com [1]:

“It’s an affront,” says Georgios Daremas, a strategist and adviser to the Greek Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Social Solidarity. “It’s basically saying sell the memory of your ancestors, sell your history just so we can get something commercial for it,” he tells TIME on Monday. “This is an idea to humiliate Greeks.”

The idea of locking up Greek assets in a special fund emerged on Saturday from Germany, the biggest and one of the least forgiving of the creditor-nations involved in the talks. In order to guarantee repayment on loans to Greece, the German Finance Ministry even suggested moving the titles to Greek assets to an “external fund” [2] in Luxembourg so that Athens could not renege on their sale. On this point, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras managed to fight off the Germans on Sunday, though it was one of the very few concessions he managed to get during the marathon talks.

Greece

“The deal is difficult, but we averted the pursuit to move state assets abroad,” [3] Tsipras said in trying to put a positive spin on the bailout, which would see Greece take more than 80 billion euros in additional loans in order to stave off bankruptcy over the next three years.

Greek payments on its two previous bailouts were also meant come in part from the sale of state assets. Under the terms of its first bailout in 2010, Greece agreed to privatize around 50 billion euros in property and infrastructure as a way of raising money for its creditors. But only 3.2 billion euros have come from these sales to date. So Germany and other creditors have good reason to doubt the Greek commitment to privatization.

Going forward, Greece will have to stash its assets in a specially created fund and prepare them for sale “under the supervision of the relevant European Institutions,” according to the text of the bailout agreement published on Monday [4]. Asked what kinds of assets the fund would include, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, one of the key European negotiators in the bailout talks, said “experts” would be brought in to settle this question. “I won’t give you any examples, because it’s not my specialty,” he told reporters in Brussels on Monday [5].

Most of the examples would have to come from the government’s land and real estate holdings, says Daremas, the government official in Athens. “That may include buildings, possible areas of land, and even islands,” he says. To protect the natural, historical and archaeological value of such real estate, Greece would need to pass laws and empower oversight bodies to make sure that “the new owner does not abuse or damage the property,” says Daremas.

Since Greek islands and plots of land often house ruins from ancient civilizations, some of these may also have to be sold, he added. “Maybe some archeological sites that are not developed,” Daremas says. “But if you have this as a private investment you also have to assume responsibility for developing the site, of course being monitored by [Greek] authorities.”

There are, of course, limits to the privatization of ancient artifacts. The treasures of Greek antiquity, such as the Acropolis in Athens, would never be sold, Daremas says. “That’s impossible. Their value is immeasurable.”

The idea of selling the Acropolis came up early in Greece’s debt crisis. In 2010, two conservative German lawmakers caused a furor [6] in Greece by suggesting that ancient ruins should not be off limits to privatization. “Those in insolvency have to sell everything they have to pay their creditors,” Josef Schlarmann, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party, said at the time. Since publishing those remarks, the Bildnewspaper, Germany’s most popular tabloid, has continued to irritate Greeks by asking why the Acropolis cannot be sold to repay debts to Germany [7].

This is black humor,” says Natalia Kosmidou, a tour guide at the Acropolis in Athens. “The Germans must have had too much beer.” Although the last five years of economic turmoil have forced Greece to rely on private donors and foreign foundations to help pay for the maintenance and restoration of the Acropolis, Kosmidou says, “the Greek state will always own these monuments, even as the poorest pauper, even penniless.

Greece has at least been willing to discuss the sale of its islands, however, as many of them are uninhabited and underdeveloped. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-prize winning economist who has spoken out in favor of debt relief for Greece [8], says the sale of islands could be an important part of the broader privatization campaign. “You could sell them,” he says. “But not a fire sale, because that would be like giving away your patrimony for nothing.”

That would mean waiting until the property market in Greece recovers. “Of course real estate prices are depressed right now,” says Daremas. “It’s very important to have time, and to wait for change in the economic climate to be able to sell them at a fair price.” The Greek promise to sell state assets came with no time limit in the text of the agreement published Monday. But in their hunger for guarantees on this latest package of loans to Greece, creditors in Germany will not be happy to wait much longer.

 

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s).  Unruly Hearts will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.

Europe Revolts: “What Is Happening Now Is A Defeat For Germany”

 

Angela Merkel reacts before a party board meeting in BerlinChancellor Merkel

 

In Spain, only Vladmir Putin is more disapproved of than Angela Merkel. Such is the level of polarization that Germany’s chancellor has created in Europe that, as WSJ reports, even domestically she is being deriled for saddling Greeks with “soup kicthens upon soup kitchens.” As Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research, a leading Berlin think tank notes, “Germany has, at the end of the day, helped determine most of the European decisions of the last five years,” and therefore, “what is happening now is a defeat for Germany, especially, far more than for any other country.”

“They want to humiliate Greece to send a warning to Spain, Portugal and Italy,” Hilario Montero, a pensioner at a pro-Greece demonstration in Madrid recently, said of Berlin and Brussels. “The message is you are not allowed to cross the lines they set.”

As The Wall Street Journal reports,

 Ms. Merkel’s power after a decade in office has become seemingly untouchable, both within Germany and across Europe. But with the “no” vote in Sunday’s Greek referendum on bailout terms posing the biggest challenge yet to decades of European integration, risks to the European project resulting from Germany’s rise as the Continent’s most powerful country are becoming clear.

On Friday, Spanish antiausterity leader Pablo Iglesias urged his countrymen: “We don’t want to be a German colony.” On Sunday, after Greece’s result became clear, Italian populist Beppe Grillo said, “Now Merkel and bankers will have food for thought.” On Monday, Ms. Merkel flew to Paris for crisis talks amid signs the French government was resisting Berlin’s hard line on Greece.

 

“What is happening now is a defeat for Germany, especially, far more than for any other country,” said Marcel Fratzscher, head of the German Institute for Economic Research, a leading Berlin think tank. “Germany has, at the end of the day, helped determine most of the European decisions of the last five years.”

 

In Greece last week, it was the stern face of 72-year-old German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble that appeared on some of the posters urging voters to reject Europe’s bailout offer. “He’s been sucking your blood for five years—now tell him NO,” the posters said.

 

“They want to humiliate Greece to send a warning to Spain, Portugal and Italy,” Hilario Montero, a pensioner at a pro-Greece demonstration in Madrid recently, said of Berlin and Brussels. “The message is you are not allowed to cross the lines they set.”

 

And she is left stuck between a rock and hard place…

 “Germany is in this hegemonic role in Europe because we have no relevant right-wing populist parties,” Mr. Münkler said.

That is why Europe’s current showdown with Greece is critical for the future of Germany’s place in Europe, analysts say.

If Ms. Merkel approves a new lifeline for Athens after weeks of vitriolic debate, she is likely to face a furor from Germany’s right and stoke the country’s incipient euroskeptic movement.

If Greece careens out of the euro, Ms. Merkel will face blame for an episode that has further polarized Europe at a time when controversies over the U.K.’s EU membership and how to treat migrants and refugees are adding to the tensions wrought by the Ukraine crisis.

Claudia Major, a security specialist at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said: “If Greece were to leave the eurozone, this may someday be seen as the beginning of the end of the project of European integration—when the Germans were not in the position, as the leading power in shaping Europe, to be able to resolve things with the Greeks.”

As they conclude…

With every crisis in which Ms. Merkel acts as the Continent’s go-to problem solver, the message to many other Europeans is that for all the lip service about the common “European project,” it is the Germans and faceless bureaucrats in Brussels who run the show.

The pushback against German power in Europe is likely to grow if the eurozone crisis worsens or if Berlin’s policies grow more assertive.

Germany spreading anti-Russian propaganda through schools

Angela-Merkel-1-001

Chancellor Angela Merkel

Germany spreading anti-Russian propaganda through schools

The Bundeswehr is intensifying its efforts to militarize German society and attracting young people into its ranks to fight against “new threats” and a “threat from Russia” in particular, World Socialist Web Site wrote.

Army and military equipment are seemingly becoming a natural part of leisure and family activities in Germany. The last major “military” event took place on June 13 in 15 various cities in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Bundeswehr, WSWS reported.

According to the website, staged combat and armor demonstrations, simulations of helicopter operations and personal conversations with soldiers coupled with entertainment facilities for children and families are a central component of a new strategy in foreign policy, which was announced by the federal government at the beginning of 2014.

German President Joachim Gauck had called for a stronger role of the army in the German society already in 2012.

“Generals, officers, Bundeswehr soldiers – come back to the middle of our society!” he appealed to his audience.

The Bundeswehr anniversary was not the only part of an intensive and comprehensive military strategy to recruit young people for the armed service. The strategy is aimed at militarizing the whole society and recalls the darkest times of German history, with the population being re-accustomed to violence and preparing for new wars, WSWS wrote.

The problem here is that the German army faces an overwhelming opposition. Given the historical crimes of German imperialism in the two World Wars, anti-war sentiment in the country is very strong.

To attract more people to its military ranks, the government has been investing ever-increasing sums of money into recruitment activities since 2011. While in 2009 the allocated financing was “only” €3.8 million, the planned spending in 2015 is nearly ten times more and amounts to €35.5 million.

The central task of the new strategy is to make the German army “one of the most attractive employers” in the country. It includes a comprehensive recruitment policy at schools, job fairs or on the Internet.

Schools are often attended by officers who present themselves as objective experts on foreign and security policy, but mainly talk about missions abroad and the dangers of international terrorism. They try not only to convince pupils of the necessity of military operations worldwide, but also promote their own propaganda materials.

Anti-Russian propaganda is one of the most common ones. The German youth is being convinced that Russia poses a serious threat to international security, which the EU and NATO have to tackle immediately.

Comment: There appears to be a concerted effort to demonize Russia throughout Europe: Exclusive: Anti-Russian propaganda appearing in Dutch school textbooks
King+Willem+Alexander+Queen+Maxima+Nuclear+hAVyQa1GDycl

Ahhhhh how nice. Vassals of the Empire welcome POTUS.

Kooperation statt Konfrontation: Wie die Syriza-Regierung der Troika hilft, das Spekulationskarussell in Gang zu halten

 

 
 
greece-euro-crisis-400x300Am 25. Januar brachten die Wahlen in Griechenland das Bündnis Syriza an die Macht. Trotz seines Sieges werden die Geschicke des Landes seitdem nicht von Athen, sondern weiterhin von Washington, Berlin und Brüssel aus gesteuert. Und nicht nur das: Die seit 2010 andauernde Zwangsverwaltung Griechenlands durch die Troika aus IWF, EZB und EU-Kommission ist sogar noch verschärft worden.

Nachdem der IWF bereits im Dezember 2014 seine Zahlungen an Griechenland ausgesetzt hatte, zog die EZB im Februar 2015 nach. Sie akzeptiert seitdem keine griechischen Staatsanleihen und keine vom griechischen Staat garantierten Banken-Bonds als Sicherheiten mehr. Zudem droht die EU-Kommission dem Land immer wieder mit dem Rauswurf aus der Eurozone.

All diese Maßnahmen zielten von Anfang an darauf ab, die neue Regierung unter Druck zu setzen, die arbeitende Bevölkerung einzuschüchtern und einen Keil zwischen beide zu treiben. Dass dies bisher weitgehend geglückt ist, liegt allerdings nicht nur an der Härte der Troika, sondern auch an der Politik der Syriza-Regierung.

Ungeachtet ihrer Zusage, die Austeritätspolitik zu beenden, haben Premier Tsipras und sein Finanzminister Varoufakis seit ihrer Wahl nicht etwa auf Konfrontation, sondern auf Kooperation mit Griechenlands Zwangsverwaltern gesetzt. Allen markigen Sprüchen vor der Wahl zum Trotz verfolgen sie seit dem 25. Januar eine doppelte Strategie: Während sie den Menschen in Griechenland weiterhin Versprechen machen (die sie nicht einhalten werden), zeigen sie der Troika gegenüber Unterwürfigkeit (ohne deren Forderungen erfüllen zu können).

Das Ergebnis: Die Troika weicht keinen Millimeter von ihrer bisherigen Linie ab. Sie besteht mit kompromissloser Härte darauf, dass die arbeitende Bevölkerung und die Armen auch weiterhin für die durch Banker und Politiker angerichteten Schäden aufkommt. Aus ihrer Warte betrachtet, ist dieser Kurs sogar folgerichtig, denn der Degenerationsprozess des Weltfinanzsystems hat inzwischen ein Stadium erreicht, in dem Reformen in einzelnen Bereichen zwangsläufig die Gefahr eines Einsturzes des ganzen Gebäudes mit sich bringen.

Seit 2008 wird versucht, die durch die Bankenrettung entstandenen Löcher in den Staatshaushalten zu stopfen, indem zum einen die arbeitende Bevölkerung mittels Austeritätsprogrammen zur Kasse gebeten wird und zum anderen Unmengen an Geld gedruckt und der Finanzindustrie zu Nahe-Null-Zinsen zur Verfügung gestellt werden – angeblich, um die stagnierende Wirtschaft wieder in Gang zu bringen. Statt dieses Geld aber in Form von Investitionskrediten zu vergeben, wird es von den Finanzinstitutionen zur Spekulation an den Aktien-, Anleihe- und Währungsmärkten benutzt. Die Folge sind riesige Blasen am Anleihenmarkt, an den Aktienbörsen und im Immobiliensektor.

Das einzige Mittel, um diese Blasen nicht platzen zu lassen, besteht darin, das sich immer schneller drehende Spekulations-Karussell auf Biegen und Brechen in Gang zu halten. Dass das in Griechenland bisher gelungen ist, lässt sich vor allem der Doppelstrategie der Syriza-Regierung zuschreiben: Sie hatte bei der Wahl im Januar nur deshalb so viele Stimmen auf sich vereinigen können, weil sie den Menschen ein radikales Ende der Austeritätspolitik versprach. Die vielen Solidaritätsbekundungen vom Rest des Kontinents zeigten, wieviel Hoffnung die Menschen auch in anderen Ländern in Syriza setzten.

Doch schon wenige Tage nach der Wahl wurden die hohen Erwartungen zum ersten Mal gedämpft. Dass Syriza eine Koalition mit den rassistischen rechtspopulistischen Unabhängigen Griechen einging, stieß weitgehend auf Unverständnis. Die danach von ihren führenden Funktionären ständig wiederholten Bekundungen, man wolle mit der Troika kooperieren und sämtliche durch Spekulation entstandenen Schulden Cent für Cent zurückzahlen, sowie das Herausschieben der Verwirklichung ihrer Wahlversprechen kostete weitere Sympathien.

Dass die Syriza-Regierung inzwischen aber in die Kassen der Rentenversicherung, der Krankenkassen und öffentlicher Betriebe, darunter sogar Hospitäler und Schulen, greift, um Kredite an die Verursacher der griechischen Notlage zurückzuzahlen, dass sie Steuern erhöht, hohe Rüstungsausgaben duldet, Bargeldzahlungen einschränkt und selbst einen weiteren Sozialabbau entgegen ihren Wahlversprechen nicht mehr ausschließt, hat nicht nur viele Anhänger der Bewegung in Griechenland schockiert, sondern auch zu einer Welle der Ernüchterung im Ausland geführt. Man erinnere sich nur daran, mit welchen Vorschusslorbeeren Syriza Ende Januar von Podemos in Spanien begrüßt wurde und wie deren Führung den Beginn „einer neuen Epoche“ in Europa ausrief. All das ist inzwischen Schnee von gestern.

Die Syriza-Politik der vergangenen Monate lässt sich in drei aufeinanderfolgende Phasen unterteilen: Zunächst hat das Bündnis sich mit falschen Versprechen an die Spitze des Widerstandes gegen die Austeritätspolitik gesetzt. Dann hat es die Menschen durch seinen Zickzack-Kurs und in sich widersprüchliche politische Aussagen verwirrt und verunsichert. In der dritten Phase arbeitet es immer unverhohlener mit der Troika zusammen, plant bereits die Durchsetzung von Arbeitsmarktreformen, diskutiert Rentenkürzungen und eine Senkung des Mindestlohnes und hat mit der Privatisierung von Staatsbetrieben begonnen. Ideologisch verbrämt wird dieser politische Offenbarungseid mit der Begründung, man habe ja Widerstand leisten wollen, sei aber an der Härte der Gegenseite gescheitert.

Dass Syriza sich im Verlaufe der vergangenen dreieinhalb Monate vom vermeintlichen Gegner zum Instrument und zum Helfershelfer der Troika entpuppt hat, hat auch dem Widerstand gegen die Sparpolitik in anderen europäischen Ländern empfindlich geschadet. Die Hoffnung der spanischen Bevölkerung, dass mit Podemos im Schlagschatten von Syriza ein neuer Wind in Europa wehen könnte, ist weitgehend verpufft. Es ist kaum noch damit zu rechnen, dass die Wahlen im Herbst zu dem bis vor kurzem vorausgesagten Triumph der Podemos-Bewegung führen werden.

Bei aller Ernüchterung lässt sich aber auch feststellen, dass Syriza durch die Enthüllung ihres wahren Charakters einen entscheidenden Beitrag zu einem extrem wichtigen politischen Klärungsprozess in Europa geleistet hat: Es war noch nie so offensichtlich, dass Appelle an das menschliche Gewissen von Troika-Technokraten vollkommen sinnlos sind und dass eine menschenwürdige Zukunft des Kontinents nicht durch Kooperation mit der Troika, sondern einzig und allein durch die Konfrontation und den entschlossenen Kampf gegen das Bündnis aus EU, EZB und IWF möglich ist.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Unruly Hearts will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.