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The media war between Greece and Germany subsides as the crisis subsides

07 April 2014 / 15:04:30  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Four years after the beginning of the Greek crisis, all European institutions as well as the leading force in the European Union, Germany, agree that Greece’s economy has stabilized.

Today it seems that the relations between the two countries have fully recovered and the upcoming visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday (11 April) proves this. Analysts state it aims to express the support of Berlin to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his cabinet before the European elections.

However, despite the calm on the political front, the hatchet of the media war between the two countries was not completely buried until recently. Who could forget the insulting articles by tabloid Bild and the cover of Focus magazine, showing the Venus de Milo making an obscene gesture at the Greeks or the Greek editions showing photos of Angela Merkel dressed as Adolf Hitler?

These Greek-German "misunderstandings" were the topics of a discussion on the role of media and the politics in them. The debate coincided with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Greek section of German media giant Deutsche Welle, which will be marked on 13 April this year.

"After all these years there should not be any problems between the two countries, but the policy in recent years has faced them with new challenges," said new head of Deutsche Welle Pieter Limburg, whose connection with Greece dates back to his childhood. He said that he lived in Athens during the military dictatorship (1967-1974), when his father was German ambassador to Greece. In 1972, his family was forced to leave Greece after the ambassador helped dissident George-Alexandros Mangakis escape from Greece and the military junta.

New Democracy deputy Dora Bakogiannis defined the act of Limburg’s father as "the first official act, on the part of a foreign country, against the dictatorship in Greece." She stressed that the Deutsche Welle radio station was "the only free voice that informed us during the junta", adding that she was personally related to the media through her first husband Pavlos Bakogiannis "who every night commented on various events for years."

Peter Limburg and Dora Bakogiannis shared the opinion that politics in both Germany and Greece were late in responding to the first media battles. The director of Deutsche Welle said that in Germany the negative and offensive opinions and stereotypes with respect to Greece had been expressed by the tabloids. "It took time to show that these were the positions of specific editors rather than of the German government. Today, however, things are quite different," said Limburg.

Dora Bakogiannis said in turn that some German politicians had allowed themselves to speak openly about Greece "in an extremely unacceptable way for the sole purpose of making political capital in Germany itself", calling the specific politicians demagogues without naming them.

She said the Germans had not been properly informed about the real dimensions of the intervention of Germany in the Greek crisis and the stereotypical and insulting posts in the tabloids had misled even some major German editions at certain points. "At the same time some characters in Greece were not aware of the damage they inflicted by showing German Chancellor Angela Merkel dressed in a Nazi uniform."

Deputy Dimitris Papadimoulis from the main opposition SYRIZA party tried to answer a question that he himself raised, namely "How did the Germans manage to become the most unpopular nation in Greece?" He said that "unemployment, the cuts in salaries, pensions and rights as well as the fact that the most corrupt part of the political elite continues to govern Greece" are to blame for this.

"The rise of Euroscepticism and of the extreme right in Europe is due to the policy that was applied in the Euro zone and therefore all nations, not just the Greek one, believe that this is Germany’s fault."

Papadimoulis defined as "an absolute interference in the internal affairs of Greece, a publication in Greek which appeared in major German newspapers shortly before the 2012 elections, urging the Greeks not to vote for SYRIZA and Alexis Tsipras."

He however admitted that the crisis in Greece was mainly due to the years-long irresponsible governing of the country. The fact that he questioned the reformist nature of the memoranda provoked Dora Bakogiannis to point out that SYRIZA was doing everything possible to hamper the reforms. "There can be no modernization if we stick to the past," she said only to receive the reply, "You are the ones who made that past."

German Deputy Minister for Economic Cooperation and special envoy of the German Government for the cooperation between the two countries Hans-Joachim Fuchtel said in turn that "no German is happy to see the Chancellor of his country wearing a Nazi uniform." He also said that the citizens of both countries have no problems as regards coexistence and that the positive change in the relationship between them is about to come. "It should be clear that we had five million unemployed in Germany 15 years ago. To give impetus to the economy we made ​​many sacrifices that were painful for the Germans. Reforms require such measures, but the programme applied in Greece has yielded results in other countries. Why shouldn’t it succeed here too?"


Tags: PoliticsMediaGreeceGermanyDeutsche WellePieter LimburgDora BakogiannisDimitris PapadimoulisMedia warCrisis
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