The media have been interested in the Greek finances as if a small state like Greece is holding the key to the global financial stability. Greeks have been characterised by the media as thieves, crooks and charlatans with the German media being extremely inventive on the issue. Personally, I have not met the millions of crooks that part of the German media portrays. However, I do know hard-working families that struggle to make ends meet, the youth which survives with an average wage of 700 Euros and Greek scientists that work and thrive in universities all over the world.
The degrading terms which were used by the German media to describe the Greeks bring back a colonial discourse which is reminiscent of the way European states formerly characterised African tribes. It is sad to see that journalists propagate such discourse even today. The use of such terms for the description of human beings contradicts the values of humanism with which we grew in Europe. In addition, history taught us that when instincts prevail over logic then the outcome may be a dangerous one.
It is also sad to see that 50 years of European integration did very little to erase silly stereotypes. In this respect, the Greeks have been quite ‘mature’ as they never played the card of the ‘bad Nazi’ German as many other countries did. The Greek-German relation is one of close cooperation. Greece and Germany have been hand in hand on many European issues as both want to see a strong integrated Europe. In a globalised world we need to coexist in order to secure our future. This is the case for both small and large states. At times where even powerful Germany is outnumbered by China, it cannot afford to lose a valuable partner like Greece.
I would like to remind all these populist journalists that these insults on Greeks also affect a considerable section of German society: their compatriots of Greek origin who live and thrive in Germany. This type of coverage has also been detrimental to German interests in Greece as the public image of Germany has been severely damaged. I do feel sorry for the personnel of the German Embassy in Athens which has to start its work from scratch.
Regarding the coverage of the crisis what we really seem to lack is good journalism. It would be good if journalists could reflect on various important issues regarding the Greek crisis. First, it is extraordinary how certain European Right-wing politicians ‘discovered’ the situation of the Greek economy just a few months ago while previously they were taking ‘big smile’ pictures next to the former Conservative Greek Prime Minister. President Barroso and the CDU comrades of the former Greek PM knew the situation of the Greek economy but simply left the problem to escalate. In legal terms, the coverage of a crime is a crime on its own. I would really appreciate it if German journalists were also critical of their own leaders who simply hushed up the severity of the Greek situation for the last six years for the sake of micro-political interests. With their silence they supported a government which is responsible for the financial, social and environmental degradation of Greece (the only major headlines that mentioned Greece during the Conservative reign were those of fires which affected half of the Greek territory).
In economic terms, Greece experienced what other states did, that is an increase of deficit which, in percentage points, is similar to that of Spain, Italy Portugal (the so called PIGS) or even that of the UK. However, it was only Greece that became the main target of an unprecedented attack. Why? Speculative pressures brought the country to its knees. The country will now have to borrow money under heavy terms. Money lending institutions are rubbing their hands. Investigative journalists should really find out who is behind this orchestrated attack.
There is also another major misunderstanding. The German media portray the German government as the generous European who throws its money to the poor south. Let’s be serious! EU financial policies are a matter of bargain. South Europeans opened up their markets in exchange of EU Cohesion money. This was a logical and fair compromise that allowed German companies to take over whereas Southern European States got a pay-off in order to redress their backward economies. In the case of Greece, German companies did more than well: they were awarded contracts for the construction of the Athens Airport and many other public utilities. They entered the Greek telecommunications market which has a strong influence in all Balkan markets. They secured huge contracts in arms deals. A clear commitment on collective defence on behalf of the EU would lead to a decrease in Greek defence spending that would do miracles for the country’s finances. Do Europeans dare?
Talking about generosity, Greece has been heavily affected by the WWII German occupation out of which it only got a meagre compensation. The issue of compensation is part of the bilateral agenda but due to the Greek wisdom it never embittered the bilateral relationship neither did it became an obstacle regarding other bilateral issues.
It is of great relief that people find solutions to the problems that the media establishment cultivates. I am pleasantly surprised by the human relationships that bind people together from these two countries. Strong financial, political and cultural partnerships have been formed. Numerous Greek-German couples have been living happily together overcoming the overexposed stereotypical ‘cultural’ differences. The Greeks love Germany, its history, literature, cinema and culture. Not to mention Otto Rehhagel!
The German-Greek relationship remains a passionate one. And believe me, there is nothing better than a passionate Greek-German love affair!