I take it that everyone has seen the insulting picture on the cover of the February 22 edition of Focus, a lightweight German news magazine? Under the headline ”Swindlers in the euro family”, it shows the Venus de Milo statue, a monument of ancient Greek civilisation, sticking up a middle finger at Germany. In this way the magazine’s editors convey, as offensively as possible, the idea that debt-ridden Greece is robbing Germany blind by forcing it to come to Greece’s financial rescue.
The Greek response has been predictably furious. The Greek consumers’ federation has called for a boycott of German goods, commenting that Greeks were creating timeless works of art like the Venus de Milo at a time when Germans were “eating bananas in the trees”. Read more
The European Union needs to raise its economic growth potential – on that, at least, the bloc’s 27 member-states and the European Commission agree. Otherwise Europe risks a speedy descent into relative economic decline, and its cherished “social model” – combining a liberal market economy with cradle-to-grave public services – will be increasingly unaffordable. Will the Commission’s latest proposals, published last week under the title “Europe 2020: A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, do the trick? Read more
The most important speech delivered in Europe last week came from Herman Van Rompuy, the European Union’s full-time president. It had real depth and did not try to conceal the EU’s problems behind a mask of unconvincing optimism.
The speech addressed how to strengthen Europe’s role in a world in which the Old Continent appears in danger of slipping into faster relative decline unless it gets its act together. The speech had much to say about economic policy, but it was the foreign policy content that was more original. This was Van Rompuy’s first detailed exposition of his views on the subject. Read more