Merkel's party using 'nationalist demagoguery'

Wed, Aug 22, 2012, 01:00

GERMANY’S MAIN opposition party has warned that the euro zone crisis has seen “nationalist demagoguery” take hold of Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician and deputy Bundestag floor leader Axel Schäfer said the tone of government politicians towards Athens, in particular, had taken a worrying turn.

“What we’ve heard from (them) on the topic of Greece sounds like nationalistic demagoguery,” said Mr Schäfer.

In recent weeks, Chancellor Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, has stepped up its opposition to further financial assistance to Greece. Last week, Munich’s CSU finance minister Markus Söder said the time had come to “make an example of Greece” and banish it from the currency bloc, “to show that the euro zone can show its teeth”. Earlier this month, the ruling Free Democratic Party (FDP) leader Philipp Rösler said that, for him, the prospect of Greece leaving the euro zone had “lost its shock value”.

Similar remarks have been made in recent weeks by government politicians in Finland and Austria.

On Monday, German foreign minister and FDP politician Guido Westerwelle warned European politicians to retain a civil tone when dealing with crisis countries rather than “play with fire and risk starting a blaze”.

“We need a respectful tone without cliches,” he said after meeting his Greek counterpart.

Ahead of the latest troika report on Greek progress with its reform programme, Mr Westerwelle said Berlin was opposed to a “substantial watering down” of the terms.

Greece’s reform progress will dominate talks in Berlin on Friday between the Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras and Dr Merkel.

Ahead of that visit, following the opposition attack, several leading coalition politicians sent conciliatory signals yesterday, indicating Berlin is ready to compromise with Athens to a limited extent.

Deputy finance minister Steffen Kampeter insisted yesterday that Germany had no interest in a collapse of the euro zone. “Europe will stand by its agreements to Greece and Greece has to show its readiness to stand by agreements to its European partners,” he said.

The CDU Bundestag deputy floor leader, Michael Meister, said that while the volume of the programme could not be changed, “certain payments could be brought forward”.

“This would only be plausible if this doesn’t rip open a new financing hole later on,” he told Die Welt newspaper. “We have the necessary majority in (our) coalition for everything that doesn’t leave the programme.”

He warned, however, that a negative troika report would remove the basis of further German bailout payments to Greece.