August 29, 2012
A couple of days ago I was in Geneva for a personal affair. In the well-known rue du Rhône with the Swiss banking institutions, the malls and the famous brands you can easily observe the melting pot of the city. A small city, but an international city. The fusion of the people is worth-mentioning as Geneva has a unique power to impose its Calvinist tradition and culture in the behavior of its citizens and expatriates.
One week ago in Berlin the European leaders were discussing a possible acceptance of a Greek exit from eurozone -a maneuver that could have severe consequences over the future of the single currency. European debt crisis can be seen from different perspectives as there are many reasons behind it. From corruption and collective irresponsibility in Greece up to the institutional rigidity of the European Union and the wrongly-perceived idea of a monetary union without economic convergence. Despite that estimation, the European debt crisis is not only an economic crisis, but equally an escalating identity conflict.
The European leaders had long thought about the creation of a strong economic interdependence with a unique identity that could be developed through the European institutions. The final goal was the establishment of a Union where all states could benefit from it in terms of the economic realm that unification could bring in. Nonetheless, the European Union has lost its shine and pace, and the common European identity seems to be replaced with the national identity of each member-state. In this respect, citizens of wealth states, like France and Germany will be easily more inclined to be attached to their national identities in the moment where they are considered the highest tax payers contributing to the rescue of the debt-stricken states of the South.
The outcome is a vicious circle where national identities are intensified and national differences are coming into surface. Conflict in Europe might not have the characteristics of a fight but it can be deeper and more pervasive as it can strike direct economic and political coalitions and partnerships. In this respect, recent polls in Germany describing the negative perception of the role of Greece as a burden inside eurozone is notable from this perspective, despite the dire consequences from a possible exit of Greece for the eurozone altogether and for Germany especially. Therefore, there is something deeper in the judgement of the German people.
This “deeper” can be explained from the following axiom: that the rescue of a state or of an entire continent is uniquely assumed by states that perceive themselves as superpowers and cosmopolitans. The very oft-mentioned paradigm is the United States that after World War II assumed the burden of restructuring the war-devastated Europe. Unfortunately even if Germany is considered itself as a cosmopolitan state in that sense, this mentality is the first victim of the revival of national tension as the public reacts negatively in the increasing political demagogy and the power of the extremist groups. The term P.I.G.S attributed to Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain is a fairly offensive one as these states are overdebted and oblige prosperous economies like Germany to finance rescue plan in order to retain them from declaring bankruptcy.
This is not only the result of the financial crisis but the outcome of the re-triggering of tough national identities. From that psychological perspective, both Greeks and Germans will continue plunging into the same irrational behavior and criticize each other. To come back to the departing point, the microsphere of Geneva and the inclusive culture of the city is something both parties need to take into consideration as a model to track its path.Dimitris Rapidis