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Opinion

Opinion: Poisoned atmosphere

The EU has been restless ever since Greek Prime Minister Tsipras took office - and it is regressing into old patterns, says DW's Alexander Kudascheff.

The political climate in the EU is poisoned - between Berlin and Athens, but also between Athens and the ECB. It's poisoned between the 18 euro states and Athens, and vice versa.

The European Union is staggering into a severe crisis, if it hasn't already arrived. All of a sudden, national, even nationalist, resentment seems to have taken hold again in this grand peace project. All of a sudden, there's a tone of voice among member states that spells enemies, but not partners that have been interacting peacefully for decades.

Tough battles in the past

There's no doubt that in past decades, the people seated around Europe's negotiating tables played tricks on each other, haggled, played for high stakes and bid to the limits in hopes of securing their own advantage. All member states participated, without exception.

But no one was harmed or insulted, and no one openly threatened breaking all the rules and accords.

DW's editor-in-chief Alexander Kudascheff

Alexander Kudascheff is DW's editor-in-chief

That is exactly the tone the new Greek government - voted into office because of its electoral promises, based on a major mandate - has struck.

A far-right Greek Defense Minister threatens unleashing half a million refugees on Europe, a violation of Europe's common asylum policies. Greek Prime Minister Tsipras establishes a new front in the negotiating poker on policies to save the euro by demanding reparation payments from Germany. Time and again, the government labels the troika and the European partners as occupiers - although they are, despite everything, partners.

To put it clearly: the eurozone countries want to help Greece. And of course they won't help without expectations and requirements. Their principle of not fighting debt with new debt makes sense - and it helped Spain, Ireland and Portugal.

Undeniably, however, this economic readiness to help has failed in Greece. The new government in Athens is right. Greece is threatened by economic and social bankruptcy, and even worse, it's been jolted by a national crisis.

Tactical abuse of the reparations issue

But that is no reason to make Germany the scapegoat, tactically abusing the question of reparations for German war crimes in the negotiating poker. From a moral point of view, there is no doubt that Germany must compensate the surviving victims of the Nazi occupation of Greece. Perhaps Berlin can and should debate, whether it can do more than it has so far.

Legally, the reparations question is settled. But here, too, it's not what you say but how you say it. After the end of the Greek military junta, Germany consistently helped Greece, as did other states. It's time to detoxify the atmosphere and tackle the economic and political problems in an objective manner. That is true for Athens, but also for other EU nations. If they don't, the EU is likely to break apart after 50 successful years - doubtlessly unintentional, but it would be a disaster all the same.

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