Schmitz: Merkel used to be very cautious and deliberate. People could trust her. But in the migration crisis she acted impulsively and took a big risk. Her leadership style has changed and that makes people nervous.
Soros: That’s true but I welcome the change. There is plenty to be nervous about. As she correctly predicted the EU is on the verge of collapse. The Greek crisis taught the European authorities the art of muddling through one crisis after another. This practice is popularly known as kicking the can down the road although it would be more accurate to describe it as kicking a ball uphill so that it keeps rolling back down. The EU now is confronted with not one but five or six crises at the same time.Schmitz: To be specific are you referring to Greece Russia Ukraine the coming British referendum and the migration crisis?
Soros: Yes. And you haven’t even mentioned the root cause of the migration crisis: the conflict in Syria. Nor have you mentioned the unfortunate effect that the terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere have had on European public opinion.
Merkel correctly foresaw the potential of the migration crisis to destroy the European Union. What was a prediction has become the reality. The European Union badly needs fixing. This is a fact but it is not irreversible. And the people who can stop Merkel’s dire prediction from coming true are actually the German people. I think the Germans under the leadership of Merkel have achieved a position of hegemony. But they achieved it very cheaply. Normally hegemons have to look out not only for their own interests but also for the interests of those who are under their protection. Now it’s time for Germans to decide: Do they want to accept the responsibilities and the liabilities involved in being the dominant power in Europe?
barely a month after Germany’s intransigence over Greek debt saw protesters likening her to Hitler Merkel is suddenly finding herself at the receiving end of a virtual love-in on social media.On Facebook there are pages with titles such as “Mama Merkel, Mother of the Outcasts” and Syrians are sharing images of the chancellor with slogans such as “Wir lieben dich” (‘We love you’) or “Compassionate mother”.
In Syria since the start of the civil war Germany has enjoyed a broadly sympathetic reputation for offering the country’s refugees better asylum conditions than other EU states – bar Sweden. In the 12-month period to June this year the country received 296,710 applications for asylum.
But the recent spike in pro-Merkel outpourings has been triggered by Germany’s decision to make use the “sovereignty clause” of the Dublin convention – allowing Syrian refugees to apply for asylum in Germany rather than being deported back to the EU country where they first arrived.
(ed:..and here in new zealand our prime minister refuses to take any more refugees than the pitifully-small/embarrassing/paltry 750 we now take..(that number again..?..’750′..while germany takes an extra nearly 300,000 over their already generous refugee-intake..
..and key – this morning – has made the callous/uncaring/farcical-claim that we can’t take any of this flood of syrian-refugees..’cos the u.n. doesn’t like countries cherry-picking refugees’…(!)
could this man be more cynical/callous..?..he falls over himself rushing to sign us up to the american war-machine that has caused this refugee-chaos..but turns his/our back on the human-costs of his fucken war-mongering..
..this is a very low time/point in new zealand foreign-policy/our role/responsibilities as a global-citizen..not a time for us to be able to hold our heads high..eh..?..)
We should not be surprised if the ideal degree of empathy for a politician is less than that of an otherwise decent human being. Politicians have to make decisions on broadly utilitarian criteria – deciding to do what best serves the interests of the greatest number – while not acting against the interests of minorities. This requires a cool head and a hard nose. These are not necessarily qualities I would want in a loyal friend life-partner or relative. Whereas a politician must be quick to go back on a promise if circumstances change – a friend who too readily does the same is not worthy of the name.
And while we need health ministers to weigh up the cost-effectiveness of life-saving interventions a parent who did the same for a child would be some kind of monster.
In Merkel’s defence it should also be remembered that empathy comes in cognitive and affective varieties. It is one thing to feel someone’s pain – quite another to understand it – let alone to know what to do about it.
In December 2011 the former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt (1974–1982) – spry and witty at nearly ninety-three – delivered a keynote speech to the SPD’s annual convention- using words that any active German politician would find difficult to utter. He recalled that a friend had asked him how long it would take for Germany to be a ‘normal’ country. ‘I answered by saying that Germany would not be a ‘normal’ country in the foreseeable future. Standing in the path to normality is the enormous and unique burden of our history’ Schmidt said.
‘In almost all our neighboring countries there still exists a latent distrust of Germans that will probably persist for many generations to come’.
This sensitivity – once pervasive among the German governing elite – has now faded. The fact that Germany’s war debt was written off by the victorious Allies in 1948 has vanished from the national memory. There is no compassion for the fact that Europe suffered an economic drag before the collapse in part because of Germany’s lavish subsidies of its own eastern states. Nor is there any comprehension of the double standard reflected in the €2 trillion forgiven the former East Germany – but the massive resistance against aid to fellow EU members.
Germany – having tightened its own belt to help fellow Germans – is feeling self-righteous and willing to run roughshod over its neighbors.
German characterizations of Greece in the press and in political speeches range from patronizing to vicious—and they do not sound pretty in a German accent. One cosmopolitan German whom I know well – a man who has long lived in the United States – told me in 2012: ‘They should just dig a big hole – toss the Greeks in – and cover it over’.
Given the widespread German attitudes there is no serious opposition to Merkel’s policies. The Social Democrats are led by men almost as fiscally conservative as Merkel’s CDU. According to opinion polls Merkel is vulnerable—but because Germans fear she is too soft – not too tough – on the rest of Europe. The fact that if Europe collapses Germany collapses too – seems lost on most German voters. Though Merkel plays the austerity role with particular relish another German chancellor might not be so different. ‘Populism’ is usually considered a disease of the far right or the far left – but in Germany Merkel stands for a kind of fiscal populism of the center. The more Merkel panders to public opinion on the subject of not rewarding the dissolute Mediterranean members of the EU – the more she reinforces it.
Germany acts in tandem with a deeply conservative European Commission permanent bureaucracy – with hedge funds as enforcers.
Angela Merkel and her finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble have come under sharp attack at home for their handling of the Greek crisis talks – with some opposition politicians accusing them of blackmailing Athens.
Ahead of a special session of the Bundestag on Friday at which Merkel the German chancellor will ask parliamentarians to support negotiations for a third bailout for Greece – some MPs accused her and Schäuble of deliberately trying to split Europe.
The deputy leader of the far-left Linke Dietmar Bartsch meanwhile accused the German government of extortion. ‘This negotiation result is a German diktat and nothing other than blackmail’ he told German television.
Schäuble in particular had ‘smashed an awful lot of porcelain’ during the talks he added. With his Grexit paper he had ‘taken the axe to Europe. It is terrible what he did and the way he used it to threaten other countries’ Bartsch said.
Christian Lindner the head of the liberal FDP party accused Merkel of adopting a ‘nebulous’ negotiating strategy. He said her and Schäuble’s ‘change of direction’ was ‘politically breathtaking and from a legal perspective extremely questionable’.