When things go wrong someone is blamed. Throughout the current crisis there have been several convenient scapegoats: the EU itself, southern European countries and Germany, among others. Passing the buck is an all too familiar rhetorical strategy, but it is not constructive. It is not conducive to the diplomacy that a collective response requires, nor does it elevate the public’s understanding of the challenges faced.
During the first act of the sovereign debt crisis in 2010, the German news magazine Focus famously titled that the Greeks were “Cheats in the Euro Family.” The Bild Zeitung reproduced the discourse of Greeks as dishonest and feckless people, by coining the neologism ‘Pleite-Griechen’ (bankrupt Greeks). Bild went on to demand that president Samaras issues his guarantee ‘that Greece will repay all its debt’ in writing. The subtext was unmistakable: they cheated once, that’s what caused the mess, we should never trust them again.
The EU itself has also been blamed time and again for imposing harsh measures on debtor states. Reading some of the press in the UK one would believe the EU is responsible for everything, from sluggish economies, unwelcome immigration as well as the inability to deal adequately with people wanted on terrorism charges. In a recent article Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, lamented what he called a ‘blame game’: a state of affairs in which problems or unpopular issues are presented as European failures, and policies that are popular and successful are presented as the success of national governments (even if they were developed by European institutions).
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