Germany leads Europe economically while coming to terms with Nazi past

Dave Masko's picture

She has been called the world’s most powerful woman, yet German Chancellor Anglea Merkel doesn’t like to be called leader because that title in German means Fuehrer.

Angela Merkel, 57, was called “the most powerful woman in the world,” during an April 1 BBC News report that explained how Germany now leads Europe as its leading economic power. Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel said she’s careful not to repeat her country’s Nazi past and, hence, she doesn’t like the title “leader” due to the German spelling and pronunciation of that word means “Fuehrer.” BBC News, with its strong ties to British history and the country fighting Germany in both World Wars, explained further that the word Fuehrer is still “associated with Adolf Hitler.” Also, because of its strong association with Nazi Germany, the word for “leader” in Germany today still comes with some stigma and negative connotations whenever it’s used as the meaning of a “leader.” Still, the German chancellor seems “to understand her power today as a leader in Europe,” and thus Chancellor Merkel granted a rare interview to the British Broadcasting Company April 1 stating “it would be a huge political mistake if debt-stricken Greece was allowed to leave the euro.”

Merkel leads without bullying

Unlike previous German chancellors, Angela Merkel is not viewed as arrogant and demanding. Yet, the BBC News reported, in a rare interview April 1, that she’s a power to be reckoned with as she takes on the de facto leadership of the European Union and now helps call the shots on the bailout for Greece.

Merkel, the first female chancellor of Germany, was elected in 2005 when she lead what German history books has dubbed as a “grand coalition consisting of her own CDU party, its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

Moreover, in the 2009 German federal election, Merkel’s CDU obtained the largest share of the votes, and formed a coalition government with the CSU and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).

According to her official biography, Merkel was a “physical chemist by professional background,” and entered German politics “in the wake of the Revolutions of 1989.” In 2007, Merkel was president of the European Council and chaired the G8, “only the second woman (after England’s Margaret Thatcher) to do so, adds her biography.

Thus, based on her background in working with coalitions, Merkel told BBC’s Newsnight April 1 that “the Eurozone must hold together,” in the wake of the current financial crisis in Europe.

Germany: Memories and Memorials

According to the BBC News history department, “for at least 150 years, Europe has feared Germany.”

For instance, the BBC recently spotlighted “German military again back on the march in Berlin” during recent parades and commemorations in a country that’s still linked to its Nazi past by “memories and memorials.”

However, BBC News produced a detailed investigation into both Germany’s past and Germany today; finding that most 17 and 18 year-old German youth “do not dwell on their Nazi heritage.”

Still, BBC News noted that others in Germany still worry about the “F word” for Fuehrer.

“Given the lessons of history, the ‘F’ word Fuehrer is something that Germans have learned to come to terms with; their Nazi past.” At the same time, the report noted how younger Germans “don’t want to heart about the past. They want to internationalize their outlook, in what BBC News added as a sort of flux in Germany for this 'flux generation' that’s ready to lead Europe and the world again, but without links to their Nazi past."

In turn, Merkel asserted, during the April 1 BBC News interview, that “you in Britain” have learned from the past, and thus she thinks Germany can do so as well.

Merkel trying to hold the Eurozone together

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told BBC’s Newsnight April 1 that the Eurozone must hold together as the financial crisis in Europe is still not over.

Also, London’s Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday that Merkel “was prepared to yield to the pressure and agree to combine the firepower of the €440bn (£368bn) EFSF and its permanent replacement, the €500bn European Stability Mechanism (ESM).”

However, the Telegraph reported how “the German Chancellor is desperate not to anger her electorate by giving more support to the Eurozone, especially after her coalition partners struggled in state elections yesterday. Eurozone finance ministers are due to meet in Copenhagen on Friday and Saturday to agree to combine the bail-out funds or significantly increase their capabilities.”

In turn, Klaus Regling, head of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), warned that the Eurozone must reinforce its firewalls to avoid more market volatility. "More money would reassure markets. Wrongly or rightly the fact is that big numbers in the shop window create calm," he said over the weekend. Mr Regling expressed a mounting frustration with Mrs Merkel's stand-off.”

At the same time, Regling said: “The bailouts haven't cost German taxpayers a penny,” Regling insisted. "The belief that this money is gone and will never come back is wrong. These are loans that must be paid back."

But Germany is not alone, added The Telegraph’s report; while noting how “Finland, one of the last four remaining AAA-rated countries in the Eurozone, is also concerned about uniting the bail-out funds. The Finnish prime minister, Jyrki Katainen, said: "The firewall must be high enough, but not too high, which could destroy the confidence of the sustainable countries."

Eurozone at the crossroads

In an exclusive BBC Newsnight interview April 1, Merkel said Germany would do everything it could to keep the Eurozone together.

During the interview, Merkel "also calmed fears of further bailouts for Eurozone countries, saying important lessons had been learned. And she applauded the UK government's austerity program, saying ‘no country can live beyond its means.’”

In turn, Greece recently won approval for a second bailout of 130bn euros ($173bn; £110bn) intended to help keep it afloat until 2014.

However, BBC News reported how “Germany is having to pay more than any other country for the package - angering many German citizens and politicians. Despite the measures, some analysts fear Greece might need even more help.”

How to fix a broken Greece

Asked how she saw the future for Greece, Merkel told the BBC's Newsnight program April that Athens had repeatedly said it wanted to remain within the Eurozone.

"It has major weaknesses but it is trying to overcome them, be they in the administration or the competitiveness of their business community. It is going to be a long and arduous road," Merkel said. "We have taken the decision to be in a currency union. This is not only a monetary decision, it is a political one. It would be catastrophic if we were to say to one of those who have decided to be with us: 'We no longer want you'."

Merkel added: "It would be a huge political mistake to allow Greece to leave. That is why we will be clear with Greece, we will say: 'If you want to be part of a common currency you have to do your homework but at the same time we will always support you.'"

The German leader also said “democracies had grown used to spending more than they earned, and had to be more careful to live within their means.”

Asked to respond to those in Europe who feared further bailouts Merkel said: "That is not how it is going to happen because there has been a rethink going on in Europe for some time. Some countries accepted the rescue package but they don't particularly relish it. They must follow conditions set out by the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission. What democratic government wants to be in that situation for the duration? Over the past two years in Europe, particularly in the Eurozone, we have learnt a lot. We must reflect time and again, why are we together in Europe.”

"It is a very tense situation right now," Merkel added. "All European countries have understood this lesson. But we in the Eurozone are convinced that together, we are so much stronger."

Image source of Angela Merkel’s official photo as Chancellor of Germany. Merkel is viewed as the most powerful woman in the world. Photo courtesy Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel

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