Posts tagged ‘Greece’

Thursday, March 21, 2013

No Bread, but .Circuses: German Public Diplomacy towards Greece

German member of federal parliament Hans-Joachim Fuchtel will be in Greece from March 25 to 28, according to Fuchtel’s website. The speaker of Baden-Württemberg’s state parliament, Guido Wolf, and a number of other experts from various regions will also be part of the group tour.

Their motto: “Encouraging our Greek friends!”

Not entertaining enough: German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Not entertaining enough: German dowager empress chancellor Angela Merkel.

And no, Angela Merkel won’t travel along. I mean, seriously, that wouldn’t be encouraging. Instead, Fuchtel proudly presents Otto Rehhagel, once a successful coach for the Greek national soccer team.

Maybe there are some hidden champions among the experts, with one good economic and political ideas. As for Rehhagel’s mission, Inside Greece sees his assignment as the latest attempt at low-level micro-diplomacy between Germany and Greece:

To send a soccer coach into this environment hoping that he will make a difference is shoddy and shortsighted but absolutely in keeping with the way this crisis has been handled.

Then again, Rehhagel may be able to explain what went wrong, as he did on a press conference after losing against Sweden, in the Euro soccer championship of 2008 –

Q: We have seen that even Germany plays with much more offensive power than usual. Can we expect something of this kind from Greece, too?

A: Of course, we would like to score. But we are a team that scores rarely, as statistics show. We need to stand securely at the back so as to score once, maybe.

But his most recent rescue mission, in Berlin, went wrong. Hertha needs a bailout fund for the coming years, he said in 2012, pondering what would happen if the club, coached by him, would be relegated to the Second Bundesliga. That’s where the club is now.

Politics comes without a sense of history these days – with one exception. Frequently, when the talk is about “more Europe”, we are warned that the alternative of that would be “war”.

But German public diplomacy towards Greece is about bread and circuses. Minus the bread, that is. If public diplomacy is about adding insult to injury, this is certainly a great approach.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Deutsche Welle History, 1973: Owls to Athens

Der Spiegel, February 12, 1973, “Personal Data” column

Walter Steigner (60), “Deutsche Welle” director, didn’t let a fellow partisan have his say. In an interview with Deutsche Welle staffer Vassili Mavridis, SPD member of parliament Dieter Schinzel had argued against a trip by foreign minister [Walter Scheel] to Athens (“a visit would be seen as support for the junta”), and tendered his interviewer a tape with a 90-seconds commentary by oppositional former [Greek] minister Georgios Mavros (“A visit by the German foreign minister would be seen as a blow at the Greek democrats —“). The social democratic [Deutsche Welle] director however considered it “politically questionable when a member of parliament accepts a tape and expects us to broadcast it”, and therefore banned the broadcast – Schinzel’s scolding [in his actual interview with Mavridis], too. The parlamentarian believes that the Deutsche Welle Greek broadcasts’ “information content” is dwindling anyway, in favor of Greek folklore: “Folk music – that’s what they can listen to in Athen’s broadcasts just as well”.

"Music contest between Apollo and Marsyas", Voice of Greece QSL card, 1985.

“Music contest between Apollo and Marsyas”, Voice of Greece QSL card, 1985.



» Greek Military Junta 1967 – 1974, Wikipedia, acc. 20130111

» Related tag: Deutsche Welle

Friday, December 14, 2012

The BoZhu Interviews: Germany’s and Japan’s post-war image –

Tai De about war crimes, popular narratives, foreignness, and soft power


« Previous Interview: MKL, July 13, 2012


The following is a spontaneous, unplanned BoZhu interview with Tai De, a civil servant from Verden. It’s actually the second interview with him, after a more general one about his blog, about a year ago.

Tai De studied history. His pattern of thought is that of a historian – but he wants me to write a word of warning in advance: he is no particular “expert” on Japan or on the Far East.

Our interview – originally rather a discussion – came up this afternoon after I listened to the memories of William Shawcross, son of the British chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, on Radio Australia‘s shortwave service this afternoon.

Q: When listening to Anglo-American media, I’m getting the impression that we (Germans) get away with a much more positive image despite the Nazi crimes and WW2, than them (the Japanese). What’s your impression?

A: Quite so.

Q: Do you have an explanation for that?

A: I don’t think there’s that one explanation which can say it all.

Q: To start with something: do the Americans or British see Germans as part of the family? Sort of distant relatives? Like: “Yes, they committed heinous crimes, but …”

A: The outset after the war was the same after VE day and VA day, in terms of geostrategic interest – America needed West Germany, and America needed Japan. Britain didn’t mind an anti-Soviet bulwark in central or Europe either. I can’t generalize Anglo-American perceptions of either Germans or Japanese people. But as far as my favourite trash history novelist is concerned, …

Q: … Alexander Kent, …

A: … you can sense his attitude towards the Japanese – I think I can, anyway. I may be wrong, of course.

Q: German gentleman criminals, Japanese low-class criminals?

A: Oh, he definitely doesn’t get trapped in that kind of concept. But there’s that Japanese foreignness. And there’s that incredible Japanese brutality against allied prisoners of war – and the brutality of their warfare.

Q: German crimes were no smaller, were they?

A: No, they weren’t smaller. The German war was a war of extermination.  The industrialized annihilation of millions of people. But when it comes to our international image, a lot of that brutal German energy was directed against Germans, not Americans or British people.  The annihilation of Jews in particular, but other minorities, too. And communists, social democrats, also very blanketly.  As far as Alexander Kent is concerned, you also see a clear division of roles, in Germany’s case. The basically good – and very brave – Wehrmacht or navy officer on the one hand, and the coward, brutal, lower-class Gestapo policeman or SS man on the other. You don’t have that difference when it comes to the depiction of Japan. There’s no “Samurai”, no gentleman warrior. And if there was a “Samurai” depiction, it would have to be the kind of perpetrator who’d behead American or British POW from the platform of a truck, just by holding his sword out while passing rows of POWs on their death march.
Mind you, that’s not necessarily an accurate depiction of a Japanese soldier – but it’s become a picture of symbolic power. There were British and American pilots murdered by Germans, too, but not that systematically. And not that – how can I put this? – the war in Europe didn’t become that personal. Not between unoccupied countries and Germans, anyway.

Q: Were Allied prisoners of war traumatized? Did they face more brutality than what they would have expected from the Japanese?

A: Maybe not before the first atrocities – against non-Asians, I should add – became known. But initially, yes. I can’t tell how familiar they were with the way the Japanese forces treated Asians – but they probably didn’t expect that their service people would be treated similarly – that civilians with their forces would be forced into prostitution, for example.

Q: Japanese brutality spelled foreignness?

A: That’s one side of it, I think. And the other is the decades after the war. I mentioned the Samurai. But there was no such positive Japanese symbol, at least not in the Western narrative. Very different from the way Germany was depicted. And that’s a matter of symbolic gestures. Maybe Japan did make gestures, but not of the kind America, Australia, or Britain would easily understand. Emperor Hirohito looks quite good in some of their narratives, as a man who assumes “responsibility” for Japan’s crimes. But that was immediately after the end of the hostilities. The Japanese were under huge objective pressure then. But later on, after the pressure had eased, they never managed to do something highly symbolic – not in a Western sense, anyway.

Q: Like Willy Brandt dropping to his knees before the Warsaw Ghetto Monument?

A: Exactly. I’m not saying that Willy Brandt changed everything – but he had a huge effect on our national image abroad. For one, he hadn’t been involved – he had actually been underground in Norway during the war. But he was a German. “A symbol for a different Germany”, as they say.
He didn’t do because of his personal record. I don’t know what exactly made him kneel – all I know is that he made an allusion later, when reacting to criticism from the BILD-Zeitung, stuff like “one must only kneel before God”. He only reacted in private, and one of his ministers recalled it in 1992, after Brandt’s death. Brandt said that those journalists had no idea before whom he had kneeled.
But when it comes to Japan…  if there was resistance among the Japanese during the war – and I suppose there was – we may never know about these people.

Talking about Willy Brandt – there was his Neue Ostpolitik, too, for the obvious reason that Germany was divided. The Ostpolitik was a symbol of hope – not only for Germans, by the way, but for all of Europe – and it was really powerful. With really honest intentions – and skills – the social democrats and the liberals in Germany made the best of it. They turned our calamities into moral strength. You write a lot about soft power, don’t you? That was soft power. Brandt was about soft power. Olof Palme, too, in his own way, from Sweden. German partition was a price Germany had to pay – that division of our country. Territorial losses, too. In Asia, it was – and still is – Korea who has to live with partition. Not Japan. That could matter, too.



» Nanking Massacre, Wikipedia, acc. Dec 14, 2012
» Lev Kopelev: No Easy Solution, April 11, 2009
» All BoZhu Interviews


Monday, August 20, 2012

Smart Public, part 2: True Colors

Dissatisfaction drives change – that’s conventional wisdom. And it’s not necessarily true. Dissatisfaction may dominate partytalk, just as well, after a few beers, or whatever you drink. If there’s change also depends on how many people are dissatisfied, and on how acutely dissatisfied they are.  Public issues won’t necessarily create anger that wuld lead to change. Rescue programs for the bailout of  system-relevant banks with public money may anger many tax payers, but as long as government incurs further public debt than levying an extra tax for the very purpose on the public, people, especially “small” tax payers, may put up with it. And they will, more and more frequently, draw the conclusions that politics is

  • totally rotten business and
  • therefore not their business.

When I explained why I believe that Wikileaks can’t work, I put it this way:

There is no effective shortcut. Only individual judgment and the preparedness to organize to accurately defined ends can be effective – but they require patience. It takes education, year after year. It takes preparedness to learn – not just of one organization, but by countless individuals. And – and that’s something the existence of Wikileaks should help us to understand – it will take media and journalists who take their tasks seriously, and who decide responsibly and who account to their readers.

It will take media and journalists who help the public to perform.

I haven’t changed my views on Wikileaks, i. e. on a government’s rights to keep part of its information confidential. But my views on patience are changing. Four years after the global financial crisis, very little has been done in Germany when it comes to legislation that would make system-relevant banks, rather than public funds, responsible for their own rescue. But Greece is required to impose austerity on those of its citizens who are hit hardest by such measures. That’s wrong – and that needs to change.

The need for change is strongly felt, even if recommendations about the required measures to make change happen differs widely. James Fishkin, a U.S. academic, recommends deliberative democracy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – but it can’t replace a freely-elected parliament. A freely-elected parliament, on the other hand, is usually susceptible to influences that are hardly “democratic” – business lobbies of all kinds, not least the financial industry. Deliberative democracy, especially when under the influence of lobbies which “provide relevant information”, is unlikely to change that.

During the 1990s, Johannes Heinrichs, a German philosopher, discussed ways to rebuild democracy. He advocated a four-fold parliament, whose branches would deal with the for fields of economics, politics, culture, and fundamental values. The latter branch would define the framework for the three other branches. Heinrichs apparently saw – or maybe still sees – his concept as a practical reaction to the ways economics have dominated parliamentary democracy, and to a global crisis of democracy.

The concept may look radical – but it hardly is. Ask any politician what should dominate political or individual decisions – economics or values. Two likely answers are “values”, or “both”. Values, that is, in theory. And “both” means nothing. That’s the good thing about practical, organizational recommendations. Only once you discuss which road map should be implemented, you’ll really need to show your colors.



» Smart Public, July 25, 2012


Friday, August 17, 2012

That’s Communication!

In an interview with Greek television, former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder doesn’t spare either party in the sovereign debt crisis with criticism, but finds the right words for the Greek audience – and for the Germans who happen to hear them, too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

“Smart Public”

The public is very smart if you give it a chance. If people think their voice actually matters, they’ll do the hard work, really study their briefing books, ask the experts smart questions and then make tough decisions. When they hear the experts disagreeing, they’re forced to think for themselves. About 70% change their minds in the process.

Thus spoke James Fishkin, a developer and researcher of  deliberative democracy (审议民主), a concept that has been practiced in countries as different as America, China, and Greece. And no, it didn’t get Greece into the current mess – it was only used on a local level there. Same in China (of course).

Everything can be hyped, and I’m sure that’s true when it comes to Fishkin’s concept, too. But the good thing about it is that it is almost two decades old.

The polls that result from deliberation can be used in two different ways. They may replace actual votes (i. e. replace the general public with a more informed public), or they may become a possibly weighty referential force in debates after the deliberative poll, and before the general public votes. Chinese politicians – as far as they like the concept at all – are probably more likely to prefer deliberative polls as replacements for real public votes. The main advantage would seem to be that the deliberators will take their task of making a decision even more seriously, if they have the last word on it. The problem: what’s a statistically representative sample of a community?

But either way, there’s probably no small chance that there’s more to it than there is to, umm …, say, Twitter.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Heritage of Günter Grass – a Vision

Uneducated critics who worship only money (or markets) are making fun of Günter Grass‘ latest poem, the one about the EU and Greece, or Germany and Greece, or Merkel and Greece… That’s how an educated critic – a critic who praises the poem – criticized those who criticize the poem, the second one by Grass within weeks. It’s the educated critics who decide who is educated, and who is uneducated, of course.

If Grass continues to churn out poems at his current rate, not only the “uneducated” will lose interest. But a very educated team of class book editors will, years on, sit at a round table full of newspaper clippings, in a conference center, their foreheads furrowed, and curse the old master:

“Fuck – which one shall we take? Why are there no pictures added to the later ones? And when did he challenge himself last time?”

Don’t keep encouraging the old sage. His heritage is going to haunt you.



» What Must be Said, Guardian, April 5, 2012


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How can we keep Franco-German Relations “Natural”?

nannynewsnannynews –

The German chancellor held an unprecedented joint TV interview with the embattled French president, and said it was only “natural” to support a fellow conservative,

the Telegraph quotes Angela Merkel. But if that’s so natural, why did no previous German chancellor get involved in French elections?

Gerhard Schröder probably came closest to that kind of brazen interference in French internal affairs when he

pitched into the French domestic debate in 2005, telling French voters that

We will reproach ourselves later if we let slip this historic opportunity to advance Europe […]  Our children, our children’s children, will reproach us. France and Germany have a very special responsibility for the success of this process.

That, however, was a European topic – a “constitutional treaty” for Europe, frequently referred to as a “constitution”. And if Schröder didn’t damage then French president Jacques Chirac‘s and their common cause, he didn’t really help it either: on May 29, 2005, a majority of voters rejected the treaty anyway.

If  François Hollande, Mr. Sarkozy’s socialist challenger, will win the presidential elections is a big “if” anyway – especially if the Front National’s frontwoman, Marine Le Pen, shouldn’t manage to gather 500 signatures from elected officials. Most of those who would vote for her otherwise are more likely to vote for Sarkozy, if the only alternatives are further to the left.

But if Hollande should win, Merkel will have to work with a new French president – one whom she will have snubbed only months earlier.

Under these somewhat unfortunate circumstances, JR sees no other choice but to throw himself into French internal affairs, too. My advice would be that Mr. Hollande should be generous, and, if he happens to defeat Mr. Sarkozy, dedicate a few lines of his victory speech to the German chancellor, for loosening up what could otherwise be a somewhat cool beginning. He might say something like:

Thank you – thank you all. I would also like to thank Mrs. Merkel, who didn’t fail to contribute to this wonderful election result. I’m looking forward to our cooperation in the coming months and years, which, I’m sure, will be as fruitful and effective as it has been to date. Nothing is lost for Europe, if we continue to work side by side.

Everything else will develop naturally. Hollande may not be exactly as keen as Sarkozy to strangle Greece’s economy into oblivion (or out of the Eurozone), but Eastern Europeans will probably see to  that.

To date, all French and German leaders have found ways to work together – after 1949, anyway. This isn’t going to change, even if the French people should dare to part the current dream team.

%d bloggers like this: