Tschüss Papandreou! As New Greek Government Arrives, A German Call For Austerity

Analysis: after a turbulent weekend in Athens, all eyes turn to the new Greek government of national unity, charged with the Herculean task of fixing the country's finances and maintaining social order.

Exit Papandreou, shown last year with German Chancellor Merkel
Exit Papandreou, shown last year with German Chancellor Merkel
Kai Strittmatter

MUNICH - After days of chaos, Greece's government and opposition have agreed on a joint alliance that does not include Prime Minister Giorgos Papandreou. The new transitional government's most urgent task is the implementation of the austerity measures imposed by Brussels.

The news was announced Sunday evening by the office of Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, who had brokered the agreement between Papandreou and the conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras. After addressing the immediate task of implementing the bailout plan, the transitional government will call an election. It is due to announce the composition of the cabinet and the name of the new prime minister today.

On Sunday, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn called for Greece to form a national unity government quickly, saying that that would be a way for Athens to "restore the confidence" of its euro-zone partners. He went on to say that, since the Greek state only has enough money to last through early December, it was essential that its current Parliament endorse the new bailout plan and implementation measures so Greece can receive the next loan installment.

Monday's meeting of 17 finance ministers of the euro group will address the payout of the tranche, said Rehn, adding that he was expecting to receive from Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos a convincing report about further steps being taken by Athens.

Mutiny from his allies

Even after Papandreou had won a confidence vote in Parliament on Friday, it was clear that the number of those lined up against him even within his own socialist party, Pasok, was too great for him to stay on as prime minister. Many had asked him prior to the vote to assure them that if they voted yes he would relinquish his post.

The composition of the transitional government and just when new elections should be held are two thorny problems between Mr. Papandreou's party Pasok and the opposition Nea Dimokratia (ND). ND boss Samaras had called for elections within six weeks, Mr. Papandreou however spoke of elections being held in February or March. President Papoulias will invite smaller opposition parties to join the conversation Monday.

ND chair Samaras had originally refused all calls for a national unity government and sharply criticized some of the key details in the bailout packages the Pasok party negotiated with the EU and the International Monetary Fund. Polls show that the ND party is ahead of the Pasok.

Samaras eventually changed his tune, telling the Greek people and Europe that: "We accept the decision to write down part of the debt. We accept the austerity goals. We also accept the structural reforms that have been agreed on. Exactly the way the present prime minister of Portugal did when he was still in the opposition before new elections were held." Samaras had been sharply criticized by European politicians because, unlike the opposition in Portugal and Ireland, he had refused the idea of a unity government. Now, the political dynamic in Greece has changed – even if the finances have not.

Read the original article in German

photo - Greek Prime Minister's office

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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