In Germany, Wolfgang Schäuble, the man who whose image was tarnished for handling millions of undeclared marks and, therefore, illegal campaign contributions for his party, has not only recovered, but has arisen as the most popular politician in Germany and, remarkably, as the head master of Europe.
So much is his “moral authority,” that he is now said to have overshadowed Chancellor Merkel. He can live without her, she can’t live without him, it is said. It is now common knowledge in Germany that the Chancellor wanted to keep Greece in the euro zone, although not at every cost, but her economy minister wanted Grexit. The question arising is whether Germany can deal with the international consequences of this “domestic fight.”
Die Welt, the German newspaper, reviewed the European press on Sunday, to discover that the image of Germany has been tarnished. A year ago, Germany was “the solution,” now the image of a hated German prevails that will not hesitate to crush defenseless economies.
The Italian press speaks of “torturers of nations” and a “Fourth Reich,” citing the Sociologist, Lelio Demichelis, making an analogy between the Warsaw Pact and Berlin. In Portugal, the villain is a German, rather than Germany, namely Wolfgang Schäuble, who is seen as the biggest threat against the European continent, bigger that is than terrorism or populism. In Belgium, the Flemish Der Standaard speaks of “Germany and the 18 dwarfs,” crushing the positive image of the “benign power” emerging after Germany’s reunification. It is the recalled that the online campaign for the boycott of German goods — #BoycottGermany – kicked off in Spain. More “close to home,” the Luxembourgian Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn, is sited as saying that certain “ghosts from the past” have been revived, whilst the Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann, speaking of German “provocations” that compromise its image.
A criticism of the same vein was voiced by Jurgen Habermas in the Guardian, suggesting that the Greek talks appear as exhaustively punitive, killing specs of positive reforms that are entailed in the program. Perhaps more seriously, the style of the negotiations placed the European Council at the center of the EU, declaring any façade of “union” as largely symbolic. Habermass, like the Portuguese press, goes on to name Wolfgang Schäuble as Europe’s “chief disciplinarian” and the Greek program “a manifest claim to hegemony in Europe.”
This situation has not reached a low point, from which Germany can begin to mend its image. The third bailout agreement is not as yet concluded. The little domestic fight may continue to tarnish German reputation.