By Costas Iordanidis
No one was surprised by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s stance when he clashed with the International Monetary Fund in regard to Greece’s debt. Essentially, Schaeuble is a German nationalist – in the phenomenon’s most recent version, which under no circumstances should be confused with past manifestations of nationalism in that particular country.
From this perspective, Schaeuble’s positions are legitimate and should be respected. Nationalism is growing in other European Union countries as well today, mainly in protest at Germany’s depressing influence over the eurozone’s economic policy or against the management of the ongoing refugee crisis. But this was also to be expected as a natural consequence of France’s decline.
What is being highlighted once again is that the problem was, and still is, Germany’s sheer size, which disturbed European balances in the past and led to two disastrous wars.
Schaeuble’s position would be understandable if the upcoming federal elections in Germany were likely to threaten the current status of the country’s political system. Countries like France and Italy are facing this kind of challenge but not Germany. Election results in different states comprising the German Federation, as well as recent opinion polls, show that the two major parties – the Social Democrats who seem to have taken a lead, and the Christian Democrats, despite their losses – could comfortably form a coalition government and carry on managing Germany’s fate. The euroskeptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party stands at around 15 percent.
Consequently, Schaeuble is simply operating as a party strongman and not as a European politician, a practically nonexistent notion in any of the EU member states, or even as a politician concerned about his country’s stability. Because if the two major parties are concerned that they will be unable to handle the AfD’s increasing influence during a new four-year mandate, then something quite terrible is unfolding in Europe.
Of course Schaeuble is entitled to act the strongman, but then what makes him different to other populist politicians, both in his own country and other EU states?
When SYRIZA and Independent Greeks came to power and began their disastrous foray into amateur politics, Dr Schaeuble enjoyed everyone else’s support. Today, the balance has been disturbed and Germany’s prestige is constantly being undermined. We await the day when Dr Schaeuble will stop acting like a strongman by elevating issues relevant to his constituency to problems of a pan-European dimension.