Last week, in a Telegraph article headed “Germany and Britain must now reshape Europe“, the aptly named Wolfgang Novak revealed all. Novak is at the centre of German thinking, being the former chancellor Gerhard Schroder’s senior economic adviser. Much of the article is taken up with the inevitable railing against Greece’s financial irresponsibility before slipping comfortably into that old German persecution complex of “why is everyone always picking on us?”
Then out comes the spine-chilling lines: “There is common thinking between Berlin and London. France is too weak to resist – she will join us. It is the hour of Europe it is the hour of Britain”.
Deja vu or what? Any student of the run up to the Second World War will recognise this thought process and we all know what happened next. Just in case you might think this is a mere slip of Novak’s pen, he warms to his theme with the priceless observation that “what Europe needs is the common sense of Germany, Austria and the Netherlands”.
Fortunately for us, although Germany clearly continues to regard itself as the superior European race, it is no longer in the business of conducting military campaigns to prove it.
Accordingly, our best policy must be to steer well clear of Novak’s siren calls. In my view this is re-enforced by Germany’s stunning hypocrisy on two fronts. Firstly it never tires of slating corrupt Greek society, yet in the Fatherland until 1999 it was not only legal to bribe foreign government officials, but companies could deduct the payments from their taxes. In the case of bribing employees of foreign companies, this tax break extended until 2002.
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As Private Eye’s “Letter from Berlin” column pointed out: “German taxpayers were subsidising Greek corruption. The tradition still thrives surreptitiously in [Germany’s] business culture”.
Indeed, those being investigated by the Greek Authorities include Siemans, Daimler Benz, MAN, and Rheinmetall. The letter also reminds us that former Greek defence minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos was convicted in 2013 of accepting bribes from Ferrostaal (submarines), Rheinmetall (anti aircraft system), Daimler Benz (military vehicles) and Krauss- Maffei Wegmann (tanks).
The other breathtakingly piece of hypocrisy is of course Germany’s continuing “nein” to country debt write offs. In 1953 more than 20 Western nations (including Greece!) met in London to consider what to do about 16 billion marks of unpaid German debt stemming from the Treaty of Versailles, and a further 16 billion marks lent to Germany after the Second World War by the governments and banks of the US, Britain and France.
Very sensibly it was decided to write off 50 per cent of the total debt and extend the repayment period of the balance to 30 years. This pragmatic solution paved the way to Germany’s recovery. Yet again when it comes to Greece etc in 2015, Berlin choses “do as we say not as we do”.
The inescapable conclusion arising from the terms of the “deal” with Greece, combined with Germany’s attitude to its euro zone partners, and its hypocritical actions, is Britain should extract itself from the stinking mess that is the European Union. It is neither European or a Union. It is disparate and irresponsible. Last knockings have been heard. Time to leave.