Posts Tagged ‘financial crisis’

New Year falls flat in Italian ski resort

January 1, 2013

The ski slopes in the Italian winter sports resort where I spent New Year were as full as ever, and on the streets the odd fur coat could still be seen. Crisis? What crisis?

But come New Year’s Eve, usually an excuse for unrivalled extravaganza, the hotel served up an aperitif from which alcohol was almost entirely absent. The dining room for the “Cenone”, the traditional New Year Eve’s dinner, was half empty. And when the clock struck 12, scarcely a single firework limped into the sky.

Madrid has turned from one of Europe’s most vibrant cultural capitals into a sad desert where young people make tapas to eat in their homes because they cannot afford to go out.

Is Italy now losing its exuberance too? Dread the thought.

German domination of Europe? No chance. They’ll pay up.

July 21, 2012

As a swathe of Eurozone countries teeter on the verge of financial collapse, Germany with its healthily growing economy gains power and influence in Europe. Its unrivalled strength is already well established.

Little more than half a century ago, Germany also dominated Europe. Germans occupied much of the continent, killed and pillaged with abandon, conducted racial genocide and enforced their will over enslaved peoples with arrogant cruelty.

Are we on the verge of something similar? No we are not, and the reason is that war guilt continues to deter Germans from exploiting their growing power. In the 1930s, they rallied to a hysterical firebrand addicted to violence and killing on a massive scale. Today they elect an Angela Merkel who is dumpy, down-to-earth and understated. She could hardly be more different.

Germans have totally admitted their war guilt. No ifs and buts – they comprehensively assume responsibility. Through their financial generosity to the Soviet Union, Poland and other countries who suffered worst from their wartime savagery, they recognised their obligation to atone.

After World War II, Germans were largely excluded from political or military leadership in Europe. All that was tolerated was that they work hard to rebuild their economy. Which they did with great success, creating a well-functioning free market, a reputation for quality and a social contract for industrial peace.

In the 1970s and 1980s, West Germany was assisting people oppressed by post-war Communism. Now they are helping bail out nations which of their own free will have spent beyond their means. Will Germany continue its generosity to people who have brought their ills upon their own heads?

Most probably yes. Germans still shy away from military involvements and show no inclination to exercise political leadership in Europe. For them, insertion into a European Union with no real leaders suits their low-key ambitions. They are ready to pay the price for its imperfections and concentrate on thriftily building their wealth.

Germans will do as much as they can to influence others towards greater fiscal propriety until disaster looms. Then they will pay up.

The rest of us can be happy that Germans still feel their guilty obligations. It is right that they do, and helpful to us all.

For more about Germany and Britain since 1912, see A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: A GERMAN PAST FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE by Marcus Ferrar, published July 2012!/afootInbothcamps

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