The PJ Tatler

Greece Continues to Bite the Hand That Feeds It

The new radical left government of Greece is making a habit of tweaking the Germans in one way or another. As part of the deal they’re proposing to get the rest of Europe to fund their welfare state, they want “reparations” from Germany for their actions during World War II.

They also constantly mock and insult German Chancellor Angela Merkel, referring to her derisively as the “austerity queen.”

But the ruling party in Greece may have taken things a bit too far. A newspaper closely identified with Syriza, the party that came to power on a platform to end the bailout and the austerity measures that went with it, published a cartoon of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in a Nazi uniform “making comments that invoke the Holocaust.”

Germany condemned on Friday a cartoon published in a Greek leftist newspaper close to the new ruling party in Athens that depicts Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in a Nazi uniform making comments that invoke the Holocaust.

In the cartoon, carried in the daily Avgi (The Dawn), mouthpiece of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party, Schaeuble says “we insist on soap from your fat” and “we are discussing fertilizer from your ashes”, references to the fate of Jews in the Nazi death camps of World War Two.

“I always uphold the principle of free speech but on a very personal level I find this caricature offensive and the cartoonist should be ashamed,” German finance ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told a regular news conference.

Relations between Germany, Europe’s paymaster, and debt-ridden Greece have become particularly strained since the Jan. 25 election that swept the anti-austerity Syriza to power.

Earlier this week, during a visit to Berlin, Greece’s new foreign minister pressed his government’s claim for World War Two reparations over Nazi Germany’s brutal occupation of his country. Germany says all reparation issues have been settled.

During Greece’s years-long debt crisis, anti-austerity protesters have often depicted German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Nazi uniform or with a Hitler moustache. Schaeuble has long been a leading advocate of the tough austerity program.

Avgi captioned the cartoon on the back page of its Feb. 8 edition “Negotiations have begun”, in a nod to talks held in Brussels over how Greece can shift to a new support program.

Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras has already had a humiliating climb down. After swearing not to talk to the hated “troika” of the European Commission, the IMF, and the European Central Bank, he had to agree — at the point of a financial gun held to Greece’s head by the ECB — to talk to the creditors this weekend. In return for speaking to the troika, the ECB will keep the Greek banks from folding by supplying them with $5 billion in Emergency Lending Assistance (ELA) — a direct shot of cash into the Greek banking system. Another tranche is scheduled for February 18 — after the Greek government meets with EU finance ministers on Monday.

Clearly, the ECB wants to keep Greece on a short leash.

The swagger is gone from the leftists, who believed the rest of the EU was terrified of a Greek exit from the eurozone. Their silly demands that the rest of Europe keep funding its out of control welfare state aren’t even being considered. How gently the finance ministers will let the Greek government down next week is an open question, but given their behavior since being elected, they are likely to get a stern lecture from the grown ups and a demand to pay back the money they owe.