Relations between Germany and Greece, strained since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2009, appeared to reach a new low point amid the exchange of barbed comments between the two countries.
President Károlos Papoúlias was uncharacteristically blunt in his response to repeated criticism about the Greek economy and politics. He accused the German minister of finance, Wolfgang Schäuble, of making insulting comments, including the suggestion that Greece should not hold elections now, because its politicians are incapable of keeping to the terms of a new bail-out. “We all have a duty to work hard to get through this crisis,” he said during a visit to the Ministry of Defence. “I will not accept Mr Schäuble insulting my country. I don’t accept this as a Greek.
“Who is Mr Schäuble to insult Greece? Who are the Dutch? Who are the Finns? We always had the pride to defend not only our own freedom, not only our own country, but the freedom of Europe.”
The comment that appears to have sparked Papoúlias’s response was a suggestion by Schäuble that Greece should follow Italy’s example by forming a “technocratic” government. He also cast aspersions on the record of Greek politicians in the past.
“After [the technocrats have completed their work] the democratic process can resume with the effects that we have all seen over the last few decades.”